365 Days of Texas True Crime: Juilianne
By February of 1995 a little red-haired 5th grader had only lived in Texas for about 5 or 6 months. Her and her mother were transplants from Santa Rita, California, a mere 1,411 mile journey to the barren, brown landscape they were calling home at the time. Julianne Powel was a fifth grader at Santa Rita Elementary school and already well liked by all her classmates. She and her mother, Lynn Fisher, lived at the Quinten's Walk Apartments at 3100 Caldera Blvd in Midland. Just Lynn and Julianne. Julianne was ten years old, what I read about her reminded me so much of my son. She loved her kitten, Snickers, she collected rocks, was quick witted and looking forward to braces.
On February 10th of 1995 Julianne's mom, Lynn, had an early afternoon off. If you've never been a single mom taking care of a kiddo all on your own, and in a new place I might add, you can't understand how much a little break from the grind can be. Lynn decided to take a break from the rat race for just a few hours that afternoon and slip into a movie matinee. Legend of the Falls was playing at the theater, the movie would be over by 4 p.m. and Julianne would get home a little after 3 p.m. so it would be fine. Julianne was a good girl and she knew not to go anywhere after school without her mom knowing.
However, when Lynn got home around 4:25 p.m. Julianne was not at home. Lynn knew she had been there though because her shoes and her backpack were laying on the floor near the door. Lynn searched the apartment complex and started calling her friends. One of her friends told Lynn that while she was on the phone with Julianne the man from downstairs had knocked on their door. Lynn and Julianne lived in the apartment directly above a man named Henry Lopez Ortiz.
Henry Lopez Ortiz was a 41 year of man from Pecos. He was a student at Midland College, had an associates degree in applied science in criminal justice and was working at the County Mesa, a mental health and mental retardation facility for adolescence as a drug counselors aide to teenagers. He lived alone. When Lynn ran downstairs to knock on Oritz's door to find out if he had seen her he answered the door disheveled with a scratch on his face. She wasn't sure why but something felt wrong. Ortiz was quick to offer help however. He tried to console Lynn even telling her that he felt like it was his fault, saying "If I had known she was alone I would have sat with her until you got home".
After witnesses told police that they had seen Ortiz at Julianne's door not long after she had arrived home they quickly focused their energy in his direction. A search warrant was obtained for his apartment and just a few hours after Lynn had called to report her daughter missing, police made the worst discovery anyone could have imagined.
When stuff like this happens there's always a call made to the news people so the community can be kept informed on local situations. The Police Departments Public Information Officer made the call the newspaper and a reporter was dispatched to the apartments in Midland. That reporter was a new mother herself, she had a five month old baby at home. She wrote about being at the apartments and hearing the wail of a mother finding out that her baby, her little girl, her only child, was gone.
That mother was Lynn. Police searching Ortiz's apartment found Julianne's nude body stuffed in his clothes hamper. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.
She was just 10 years old and her life was ripped away from her in what would still be considered the worst crime in Midland history.
Ortiz was arrested and charged in a flash. He went to trial and even though his defense counsel tried to present the argument that he had brain damage that impaired his judgement it took the jury no more than 45 minutes to find him guilty and send him to prison for life. A punishment that many in the area found absolutely disrespectful to the sweet, innocent, red-haired girl and her mother whose only child was stolen from her in such a vile and brutal way.
During the trial two Pecos women testified that Ortiz had tried to rape them. The prosecution accused Ortiz of conducting bible studies in Pecos in order to gain access to the girls years ago. He was accused of sexual assault and fondling. Friends of Ortiz testified that he was religious.
Thirteen days before the thirteenth anniversary of Julianne's murder, the evil that traumatized so many for so long died, alone in prison. I think in 2008 sometime.
When the reporter that followed the case so closely wrote about the relationship she developed with Lynn, the mother of the innocent little girl whose life Ortiz chose to snuff out, wrote about her, she wrote of how strong of a woman she was. She talked about how Lynn made a choice to make sure her daughter got justice and Ortiz was put away for what he did. Mother's are capable of so much more than the world understands, more than most people can comprehend. This mother was hit with what most moms would consider to be the worst thing that could ever happen but she managed to be strong for the sake of her daughter and see that a very bad man was put away forever so that he could never harm another child again, and that's exactly what she did.