A Utah woman and her new boyfriend have been charged with murder for shooting dead her ex and stealing 50 pounds of marijuana from his van.
Sarah Elaine Lobato, 20, and Jayton Trevor Merrill, 18, were taken into custody on November 20 after cops identified the Cadillac parked outside her house as the one shown in surveillance footage at the scene of the killing in West Jordan, Utah.
Lobato reportedly admitted to cops that she ‘set the entire thing up’, organizing to meet the victim, 39-year-old Raymond E. Ortiz from California, as she was trying to end a ‘bad’ relationship with him.
Police say she also admitted to attempting to kill Ortiz before with a poisonous plant ‘but was unsuccessful because she used the wrong plant’, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Sarah Elaine Lobato, 20, (left) and Jayton Trevor Merrill, 18 (right) are charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery for shooting dead her boyfriend 39-year-old Raymond E. Ortiz
Ortiz’ body was found lying outside of his van parked in a residential street in West Jordan after 2am on November 19, with two gunshot wounds to the head and one in the arm.
He had ‘faint pulse and agonal breathing’ but attempts to save his life were unsuccessful.
According to cops, surveillance footage showed a silver Cadillac pulled up next to Ortiz’s van shortly after he arrived, and someone immediately shot three times into the vehicle.
The car then pulled in front of the van and two people got out. The van lurched forward striking the car.
The footage then showed a man, later identified by police as Merrill, firing two further shots into the side of Ortiz’ vehicle while Lobato dragged two large black bags from the van into the Cadillac.
Ortiz had parked his van, pictured above, on a quiet residential street to meet Lobato
Ortiz was found at the scene, above, with two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the arm
They drove off but the van slammed into the back of the car a further time, causing more damage.
Police launched a search for the Cadillac, finding it in Lobato’s driveway with the bumper covered in tarp the next day.
‘Anyone who’s been in investigations for any decent amount of time quickly learns that the harder you work, the luckier you get,’ West Jordan Deputy Police Chief Travis Rees told Fox 13 of the investigation quickly locating the car.
‘Good information from some neighborhood video cameras that at least got us a partial description of the suspect vehicle.
‘That led to more tips and we were able to locate the suspect vehicle and ultimately identify the suspects.’
While officers were in the driveway of Lobato’s house, she and Merrill drove up in a BMW which police then searched.
Officers found a ledger and bag used for drug distribution, several gun magazines, ammunition and a rifle buttstock.
Lobato told police that ‘new boyfriend’ Merrill shot Ortiz but she had orchestrated the whole thing, driving Merrill’s Cadillac to the spot in West Jordan after getting Ortiz to meet her there.
She said that she had previously tried ‘several times’ to end her relationship with Ortiz, with whom she had lived since March 2020.
Police found the black bags she pulled from the van containing 50 pounds of marijuana in a search of Lobato’s home.
Officers allegedly found 100 pounds of the drug in total at the property.
‘I was, like, “[Expletive] this. I’m going to make this worth my while”,’ she reportedly said about stealing the marijuana.
Merrill has denied he was involved in the shooting, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
He said he was at home of the night of the shooting, had not driven the Cadillac in a year, and had no idea how it ended up in Lobato’s driveway.
Cops were able to identify the suspects from surveillance footage from a nearby home
Cops, however, stated that both suspects had made efforts to conceal evidence.
Deseret News reports that Ortiz had been to Utah before and had a prior criminal history for drug distribution.
Both Lobato and Merrill are charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both first-degree felonies; and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony.
Merrill has also been charged with possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
According to Fox, they could end up facing capital charges as the murder was allegedly committed in the act of an aggravated robbery.
They are being held without bail in Salt Lake County Bail.