Sonya Ortego Murder: Where is Jackie L. Pruitt Now?

In 2016, a motel in Louisiana was turned into a crime scene as a 28-year-old woman named Sonya Ortego was found dead. The gruesome murder led the police to launch an extensive investigation to find out the perpetrator/s responsible for the crime. The episode titled ‘Murder in the Parish’ on A&E’s ‘Murder at the Motel’ delves deep into the events that led to the demise of Sonya, the investigation that followed, and the shock it caused across the community. Moreover, through the exclusive interviews with the victim’s loved ones, the episode also touches upon the impact it had on them.

Sonya Ortego Was Found Dead in Her Motel Room By the Owner

Born on May 26, 1987, Sonya Lynn Ortega had a seemingly tough upbringing but was surrounded by loved ones, especially her mother. Diagnosed mentally impaired early on, she was not able to complete high school. Although she was unemployed due to her incomplete education, she was provided with Social Security benefits for her clinical mental condition. At the time of her untimely and unexpected demise, Sonya had been dating Matthew Jantzen, her longtime boyfriend with whom she had gotten engaged.

The two had booked Room 6 of Dee’s Motel, situated just south of DeRidder on US 171 in Pleasant Hill, from February 1, 2016, until March 25, 2016. Just a day before their checkout, on March 24, 2016, when the owner of the motel went to deliver fresh towels to the couple’s room, nobody opened the door. So, he went ahead and entered the room, finding 28-year-old Sonya Ortega dead on the floor. Panic-struck, he immediately called 911 and informed the authorities of the situation. When the police and paramedics arrived at the scene, they noticed that she was already dead. According to the autopsy, the cause of her death was multiple stab wounds, but she also had been raped before her death.

Sonya Ortego Was Ambushed By a Stranger at the Motel

After collecting evidence from the crime scene, the investigators began interrogating the witnesses. Many of them had complained about the sounds of a fight coming from room 6 in the early morning hours of the fateful day. Several witnesses also claimed that a night before Sonya’s murder, they noticed a man named Jackie L. Pruitt drinking whiskey from a small bottle and asking around for cigarettes. Moreover, he was allegedly found staring at Sonya’s room.

Since all testimonies pointed toward Jackie, they dug deeper into the suspect and found blood and the victim’s DNA in his room and vehicle. The detectives also found Sonya’s phone, checkbook, and bank cards in Jackie’s possession. When asked about the scratch marks on his chest, he claimed that they were old marks he got from barbed wire. However, experts reported that the marks were in the process of healing, which meant they were new wounds.

Given all the evidence against him, the police arrested him the day after Sonya’s body was found in the motel room and charged him with first-degree murder of the 28-year-old woman. According to reports, Jackie murdered Sonya while “engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated burglary, aggravated rape (also known as first-degree rape), and armed robbery.”

Jackie L. Pruitt Passed Away in 2022

In May 2017, Jackie L. Pruitt stood on trial for the murder of Sonya Ortega. One of the key witnesses testified against the accused and claimed that he heard loud banging and voices coming from her room at about 6 am but thought that the couple was involved in an argument. The witness stated, “They didn’t fight regularly, but they did argue from time to time. It seemed pretty normal for a couple, and I just figured the noises I heard were them.” Despite the arguments from the defense, the 12-person jury found Jackie guilty of first-degree murder of the 28-year-old woman on May 25, 2017.

Image Credit: Myers Colonial Funeral Home

Sonya’s mother took the stand and addressed the convict. She stated, “I hate you with every fiber of my being, and I always will. You took my only daughter from me. I will never see her again, and I will never have a chance to see her children. And it’s all because of you.” Much to her relief, Jackie received a life imprisonment sentence without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

After the sentencing, Jackie filed an appeal to have his conviction reconsidered. He claimed that the evidence against him was not enough for his conviction as there was no murder weapon, no witnesses, and no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Sonya Ortega. Nevertheless, the court denied the appeal and upheld the conviction against him, ordering him to serve the sentence handed to him. On September 12, 2022, Jackie Lynn Pruitt passed away at the age of 65.

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