Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Victim in insanity defense stabbing dies after night of drinking

ST. PETERSBURG — Last week prosecutors decided not to put Hector Luis Ortiz Jr. on trial for the attempted murder of Daniel Traum. They closed the case after deciding that Ortiz, a soldier on leave from Iraq, was not sane at the time of the unprovoked attack against his friend.

That was on Jan. 12. Six days later, police say, Daniel Traum was found dead in his apartment — the same place where officers found Ortiz standing over him nearly two years ago.

St. Petersburg police believe Traum's death on Tuesday was likely accidental, that he may have asphyxiated after a night of drinking with a friend.

But detectives also have to rule out the possibility that the stab wounds he suffered in the attack played any role in his death.

"The main thing we're concerned about is, did the trauma from before have any correlation to his death at this time," said St. Petersburg police Maj. Mike Kovacsev. "If there was any correlation, we would have to look at a murder charge."

That would mean Ortiz, who was already found not guilty of attempted murder by reason of insanity, could be charged with murder.

Ortiz attacked his friend on March 26, 2009, according to police. Screams for help brought officers, their guns drawn, to Traum's apartment at 262 Monroe Circle.

Both men were covered in blood. Traum lay on the floor. Ortiz stood over him holding a shard from a broken lamp. "Help me!" Traum screamed, according to police. "He is going to kill me." Officers wrestled Ortiz to the ground. They later found a kitchen knife that police said was also used in the attack.

"Ortiz seemed delusional," an officer wrote in a police report. The suspect yelled "I'm not done with him," and also believed he was in an Iraqi village. He also told the police that he had just gotten home that day from Iraq and had a 15-day leave.

It's rare for a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, but a psychotherapist diagnosed Ortiz with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Ortiz didn't know where he was or what he was doing at the time, the expert said, and even believed he was in Iraq.

All that's left to decide is whether Ortiz should be locked in a secure mental facility or treated in a less secure environment at a Jan. 28 hearing. Ortiz, 25, of Ruskin, was freed on bail in July 2010.

Traum spent his last hours hanging out with friend Christopher Young, police said. They got together about 5 p.m. Monday, police said, got takeout from Wendy's, then started drinking White Russians.

Young told police that Traum fell asleep on his bed about 5 a.m. Tuesday and could not be roused. Traum was on his back snoring, but Young told police he rolled his friend onto his side. Then about 1 p.m. a former roommate who was visiting discovered that Traum was dead and alerted Young.

A dark discharge was left on his pillow that appeared to come from Traum's mouth and nose, police said. He was 35.

Police say there were no signs of trauma or violence or foul play. They are now waiting for the results of toxicology tests, which will take weeks to come back.

"Those will help us tie together the exact cause of death," Kovacsev said.

Ortiz's attorney did not return a call for comment. Traum's family declined to comment on Friday.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Victim in insanity defense stabbing dies after night of drinking 01/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 10:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. William March: Capin and Cruz appear destined for District 1 race

    Local Government

    Tampa City Council member Yolie Capin and state Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, appear headed for a primary in the District 1 County Commission race, which has Democrats worried they'll once again have strong candidates competing against each other in primaries, to the detriment of their chances against Republicans.

    Times Correspondent William March
  2. Watch: Gorilla dances like a 'maniac' in kiddie pool


    Zola, a gorilla who resides at the Dallas Zoo, has gone viral after showing off his dance moves.
  3. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention


    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  4. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault


    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  5. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]