ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Craig Smith, the man convicted of killing his elderly aunt to pay off a drug debt, will spend the rest of his life in prison. On Monday, Mar. 6, a judge sentenced Smith to life in prison plus 60 years.
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In November 2022, a jury found Smith guilty of first-degree murder for killing his aunt, Josephina Ortega, who was 86 years old. She was found asphyxiated inside her home with her hands zip-tied behind her back in 2017. Prosecutors argued Smith was motivated by money and planned the whole thing, knowing Ortega kept large amounts of money inside her home. They also say phone records put him at Ortega’s home the night of the murder.
Before Smith learned his sentence for killing his aunt, family members spoke to the judge calling his crimes unforgivable. “My answer today is clear. I will never forgive you for what you have taken away from me, my kids, and my family,” said Ortega’s only grandson, Brandon Bilak. Other family members still reeling from their loss, asked District Court Judge, Brett Lovelace to give Smith the maximum. She felt sorry for you, she had love in her heart for you but you disregarded her kindness and love and without a second thought you killed her because you wanted her money,” said Ortega’s daughter, Elisa Ortega.
Smith was also sentenced Monday, for another murder in 2017. Police say he went into the home of Terry Williams in a robbery attempt. Williams’ body was found in a smoldering fire at a campground in the east mountains. “The defendant is not a good candidate for any kind of rehabilitation or probations I believe he’s worn down his welcome over the past 30 years and he is an individual who needs to remain behind bars for the safety of our community through the entire state of New Mexico,” said New Mexico State Prosecutor, John Duran.
Before District Court judge, Brett Lovelace handed Smith his sentence, the 60-year-old professed his innocence to the courtroom. “Unfortunately your courts found me guilty and I am not guilty of killing my aunt no matter what the other side thinks and what they say,” said Smith.
Smith will serve a life sentence plus 60 years.