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Ortega does not enter plea on murder charge

By Hank Sims Daily Planet staff
Thursday January 17, 2002

Lazarus Ortega, the sometime Berkeley resident who was accused last month of the murder of his adoptive mother, Charlotte Ortega of Berkeley, briefly appeared in court Wednesday morning. 

Ortega, 21, did not enter his plea in the case, as had been expected. The Public Defender’s office, which is representing Ortega, asked for a two-week extension, which Judge John Zlyka of the Alameda County Superior Court’s Berkeley Courthouse granted. 

Public Defender Michael McCormick told Zlyka that his colleague, James McWilliams, had been assigned to the case, but could not make the arraignment because of a scheduling conflict. 

The date was rescheduled for Jan. 30 at 9 a.m. at the Berkeley Courthouse. 

McCormick filed a motion for discovery with the court on behalf of the public defender’s office. The motion, routinely filed in criminal cases, commands the district attorney to share evidence. 

District Attorney Jason Sjoberg said on Wednesday that his office is still awaiting the results of forensic tests that are being performed on articles found in Charlotte Ortega’s home and in her van.  

Police reports in the case said blood was found in both locations. 

Charlotte Ortega’s body was found floating in the bay, near the Berkeley Pier, on Dec. 30. She was a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District, an advocate for the disabled and the director of a Christian mission that established a low-cost health clinic for the poor in Lagos, Nigeria.