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2 charged in ‘heinous’ murder of 18-year-old Alayna Ortiz in northwest Indiana

Alayna Ortiz, of Valparasio, was fatally shot in the back of the head Jan. 9, 2019 in Griffith, Indiana. | photo from GoFundMe

Two men have been charged in the shooting death of an 18-year-old woman caught in the middle of an attempted armed robbery last week in northwest Indiana.

Giovante Galloway, 21, and his uncle, Juarez Rogers, who remains at large, were each charged with murder, armed robbery and burglary following the killing of Alayna Ortiz in an apartment complex’s parking lot, Griffith police announced Thursday in a news conference.

Ortiz, who lived in Valparaiso, was fatally shot in the back of the head Jan. 9 in the 1800 block of North Arbogast Street when Galloway, Rogers and three others cornered an SUV and attempted to rob Ortiz’s boyfriend for drug money in Griffith, police and the Lake County coroner’s office said. Police said Ortiz was not the intended target.

The botched robbery was Galloway’s second attempt to obtain money he needed to pay her boyfriend for $1,600 in drugs he purchased, according to a probable cause affidavit from Griffith police. Galloway asked for help from his uncle, Rogers, 48, and his friends, the affidavit states.

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Three days before the shooting, Galloway and Rogers attempted to burglarize the boyfriend’s home in Gary, but were thwarted by his dog and gunshots fired by the boyfriend, the affidavit states.

They regrouped and staked out the home, waiting for another chance, police said.

Fearing for their safety after the attempted burglary, Ortiz, her boyfriend and two others left the home on Jan. 9 and traveled in a red SUV to a relative’s home in Griffith, the affidavit states. They were followed by Galloway, Rogers and the others.

Galloway’s group initially tried to rob them at a railroad crossing gate that momentarily closed at Grant Street, but finally cornered the SUV when it pulled into a parking spot at the Park West Apartments in Griffith, the affidavit states.

Two unidentified armed men from Galloway’s group approached the vehicle and tried to gain entry, the affidavit states. One man tried but failed to fire his gun, but the bullets didn’t discharge. Two unfired bullets with firing pin marks were later found at the location, the affidavit states. Someone in Galloway’s group then fired a shot which broke a window and struck Ortiz. Police were unsure who fired the fatal bullet.

Ortiz’s boyfriend drove over some grass and found two Griffith officers a few blocks away at Mansard Plaza, the affidavit states. Galloway’s group followed the SUV, but fled when they saw the officers. Ortiz was taken to Methodist Hospital in Gary, where she died, the coroner’s office said.

Galloway’s group drove back to the boyfriend’s home and took THC vials, marijuana and two TVs, and split the items among themselves, police said.

Galloway was arrested later and held without bail, according to court records. Rogers and the three other unidentified men remain at large, police said. Rogers was still believed to be in the area.

Galloway and Rogers “will answer for their heinous crimes,” Griffith Police Chief Gregory Mance said at a news conference.

“Rest assured, in regards to the [other] suspects in this case, the Griffith Police Department will continue to use every resource to identify, charge and arrest everyone involved,” Mance said.

Ortiz’s family set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral expenses.

Galloway was due in court again on Jan. 24.