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17 years later, man gets 40 years for 1997 Downers Grove murder

(WHEATON) More than 17 years after he ambushed and fatally shot a west suburban man outside his home, a man captured in South Carolina after a four-year manhunt has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Jose Ruvalcaba | DuPage County sheriff’s office

Jose Ruvalcaba, 37, was sentenced Friday by Judge George Bakalis after a jury found him guilty on Sept. 25 of the 1997 murder of Jose Ortiz in Downers Grove, according to the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office.

Diary entries describing the killing helped crack the long-unsolved slaying and implicated the former Joliet resident, prosecutors said.

Ruvalcaba wrote about the killing in his diary, which was first discovered in 1999 at his Utah home, though the writings weren’t linked to Ortiz’s murder until 2008, prosecutors said during the trial.

“This guy asked me to do a job. He said I had to kill this dude and there was good pay,” one diary entry read.

Prosecutors said that on the morning of Dec. 27, 1997, Ruvalcaba hid behind Ortiz’s garage and waited for the victim to leave for work.

“When Ortiz walked from his home to the unattached garage, Ruvalcaba ambushed Ortiz, shooting him in the chest,” the statement said.

Ortiz died at a hospital and Ruvalcaba fled, “ultimately ending up in South Carolina,” prosecutors said. In 2008, a $5 million arrest warrant charging first-degree murder was issued for Ruvalcaba. He was captured in early 2012 in South Carolina and has been in custody since.

“For nearly seventeen years, justice has been patiently waiting for Jose Ruvalcaba,” State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in the statement. “While Mr. Ruvalcaba has been able to avoid responsibility for his actions for a very long time, his days of living as a free man are now over.”

Ruvalcaba will “now be held responsible for the senseless murder of Jose Ortiz,” Berlin said.