Uncle accused of killing five-year-old niece - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Uncle accused of killing five-year-old niece

Leonard Raymond Orta Jr. Leonard Raymond Orta Jr.
Mark Sommer Mark Sommer

PHOENIX (Hawaii News Now) - A five-year-old Hawaii girl has been killed and her paternal uncle is in jail for murder. The girl's body was found yesterday in her family's apartment in Arizona. According to court documents, the uncle admitted to withholding food and medication for 10 days knowing it would kill her.

Thursday would have been the little girl's sixth birthday. Her exact date of death isn't known but her uncle says she died four weeks ago and he kept her hidden in the apartment bedroom since then.

"I'm just totally blown away, I can't believe what I'm hearing" said Mark Sommer, a neighbor and friend told KPHO-TV in Phoenix.

The girl had been staying with Orta in a Phoenix apartment along with Orta Sr. the girl's grandfather.

"Earlier in the day they got into a dispute because the father began to smell a foul odor, coming from a bedroom and he hadn't seen his granddaughter since about mid January," said Officer Louis Samudio, Phoenix Police Department.

According to court documents Orta Jr. initially said his niece died from a seizure but after failing a lie detector test he confessed to depriving her of food and medicine for 10 days.

"Our detectives were able to determine that the uncle had intentionally withheld the victim's medication and nutrition knowing that the result would be death," said Officer Samudio.

The girl had Rett syndrome, a neurological disease. She was not able to speak, could only eat pureed food and liquids and required constant attention.

"She wasn't able to walk, wasn't able to talk, eat, swallow they had to feed her by hand," said Sommer.

Orta was unemployed but had worked with special needs kids before. He had been caring for her since July while her biological parents were going through a divorce.

"Do you believe this may have been a mercy killing," asks the reporter.

"That's all I can think. Being angry at the child no, these people are not capable neither Leonard or Jr. Sonny of being angry enough to commit murder," said Sommer.

Family friends say the girl's biological father is on his way to Arizona.

As to why the grandfather didn't speak up sooner if he hadn't seen the girl in a month, court documents say Junior told his dad the girl was in the hospital. After his son began acting suspicious the grandfather called the hospitals and learned they had no record of the girl. Senior confronted Junior and tried to force his way into the bedroom, but Junior blocked the way and threw him into another room. That's when he called police.

Senior had recently had a stroke and had physical disabilities of his own and may have been in the hospital himself when the girl died.

Court documents also showed Junior had been receiving checks from the girl's father for $500 a month and Junior continued to cash the February check even after the girl's death.

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