Wichita police, family still seeking answers in man’s 2019 murder

Police look for help to solve the murder of Ivan Ortega
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 10:00 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Hector Ortega, or Ivan, as he preferred to be called was a great guy, with a great sense of humor according to his sister Steffany Ortega.

“He’s funny. He’s funny, super nice,” she said.

Steffany says her brother was somehow, at the same time, both shy and outgoing. His cousin Lala Sala describes him differently.

“My cousin, she says that us two were very alike because we’re both like the awkward ones,” Lala explained. “The ones that stand out a little more because we’re weird I guess is what she calls us.”

The only boy in a close family full of girl cousins, Ivan was a typical young guy. He didn’t get into much trouble, loved to play the video game Fortnite. In fact, his sister said, he played it a lot. He even taught the oldest of his two sons to play because besides being the super nice, funny kid, as his sister says, he was also a great father.

“That really surprised me that he was a really good dad because he was so playful, but when he had his kids he really settled down,” Steffany said. “We were all just really proud of him for the man he was becoming.”

But what else he might become, his family will never know. Just before 5:00 A.M. on February 24, 2019, Ivan drove a friend to a party in Wichita. He wasn’t actually going to the party, but stuck around in his car to make sure his friend got in safely. Before he could even shift the car into park, three men approached it. Detective Michelle Palmer says the interaction that followed was brief, but deadly.

“One person kind of leaned their hand against the car, and then they (witnesses) heard some arguing,” Detective Palmer said. “They heard the victim make a comment, and then right after that there was a single gunshot.”

No scuffle. Just a single gunshot that hit Ivan in the head. He died immediately and his family can not fathom why anyone would want to kill him. His sister says he wasn’t the type to try to fight someone and, because the interaction between Ivan and the three men was so short, imagines there must have been some sort of misunderstanding.

“I just hope that conversation comes to light eventually,” she said. “I want to know what was said. Like why? Because it makes no sense.”

“I couldn’t believe it,” his cousin Lala added. “When my aunt called me and told me he was shot I thought it was a mistake. I didn’t think it was real. We would just like to know why. It just makes no sense to anybody.”

The case has provided little to go on to help put the pieces together. Three men, maybe early twenties is about the only description. The biggest potential for clues comes from the house party where Ivan was dropping his friend, but detective Palmer says the department has received little cooperation from anyone who was there.

“People saw what happened, you know, people know what happened,” Palmer said.

The three men, at least one of them a murderer, were at that party along with an estimated 20 or 30 other people. It makes Detective Palmer believe there are plenty of people who can identify them. Which is what Ivan’s own family is now trying to do on their own.

“We try to find out things ourselves. We’ve found some names, we’ve found about two names,” Steffany said.

But, they need help.

“You have to speak up because the family is never going to rest until they have closure. Until we have closure, we’re not going to be OK,” Steffany said. “I wanted to grow old with him. I wanted to live more with him. Go through more life experiences with him. It shouldn’t have been us burying him. It’s just someone that I never imagined not to be in my life and now he’s not in it.”

Detective Palmer hopes to get justice for the family, but says arresting Ivan’s killer will protect a whole community because, as she puts it, there’s a killer out there.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact Wichita Police at (316) 268-4407 or Crime Stoppers at (316) 267-2111.

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