MOUNTAIN HOME -- A teenage girl sniffed back tears Wednesday in an Idaho courtroom as she pointed out the man accused of killing her mother and two young brothers, then burning their bodies and leaving them in the desert.
Noemi Ramirez, 16, testified at a preliminary hearing for Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco, who is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and was once on the FBI's list of most-wanted fugitives.
Authorities allege Lopez-Orozco killed Rebecca Ramirez and her sons, age 2 and 4, nine years ago before fleeing the area. He was apprehended in Mexico in October 2009, and was extradited to Idaho earlier this year.
No motive has been released. Elmore County investigators have said that Rebecca Ramirez and Lopez-Orozco had been having an on-again, off-again affair that was well-known in the community, though Lopez-Orozco's wife may not have been aware of it.
On Wednesday, Lopez-Orozco listened through a Spanish interpreter as Noemi Ramirez testified that she last saw her mother at her grandfather's house in July 2002. She said the woman left in a white car with Lopez-Orozco, whom the girl knew as Pepe, and her two young brothers.
Noemi Ramirez, who was age 7 at the time, said she wanted to go with her mother and at first, she joined her brothers and climbed into the car.
I wanted to stay so I got back out, she testified through her sobs.
Liliana Pedroza Sanchez, a 27-year-old Mountain Home woman, testified that Lopez-Orozco was her neighbor in 1999 and 2000. She said one of her friends received a call from Orozco in July 2002 because his car ran out of gas.
Sanchez testified that she and her friends borrowed a container from a gas station after an employee refused to let them fill up their empty milk jugs. She said the group then drove to meet Lopez-Orozco who poured the gas into the milk jugs and put them in the trunk of his car.
Sanchez testified that Lopez-Orozco was driving a white car.
I noticed the passenger seat of the vehicle was laid back and someone was laying there, said Sanchez, who later went to police after seeing a local news story that said Orozco was a murder suspect and three bodies had been found in his car.
Sanchez said she was concerned because her fingerprints were on the milk jugs.
I didn't want to get involved in anything serious, she said.
Rebecca Ramirez, 29, and her young sons -- two of her seven children -- were killed around July 31, 2002. The woman was identified, in part, because jewelry her father had given her was found with the remains, according to investigators.
Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base found their bodies about two weeks later in the burned-out 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier in Elmore County near the Snake River.
Each had been shot in either the head or the chest.
Lopez-Orozco was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in March 2005.
Elmore County Sheriff's Office detective Mike Barclay testified that after Lopez-Orozco was apprehended being transported to Idaho, his demeanor changed during questioning about the deaths of Rebecca Ramirez and her sons. Defense attorney Terry Ratliff countered that was not unusual.
Obviously when you're charging someone with three murders, their posture is going to change, Ratliff said. It's not unusual is it?
Barclay answered: No.
Magistrate Judge David Epis is expected to rule on whether there is enough evidence to let the case proceed to district court.