Death believed to be homicide |

Death believed to be homicide

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The death of Edward Ortega, a concrete mason worker, is now being investigated as a homicide, according to El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies.

Ortega’s body, dressed in work clothes, was found several feet uphill from a smashed up white flatbed truck after the vehicle plummeted at least 100 feet off Mormon Emigrant Trail, west of Silver Lake, and crashed into a tree, Sgt. Hal Lamb said.

Lamb said the body was ejected from the truck during the vehicle’s fall. He would not comment on the exact cause of death.

“The investigation is pending,” Lamb said. “We’re obviously holding things back. If anyone saw a white flatbed truck, or saw anyone walking away from that area or picked (up a person), we’d appreciate a phone call.”

Lamb said part of the investigation is focusing on whether Ortega was dead before his car left the road.

Ortega, 45, was reportedly doing masonry work at a ranch on Silver Fork Road, 12 miles south of Highway 50. The crash site was described as being a mile south from Silver Fork Road on Mormon Emigrant Trail.

Ortega moved up from Arizona six months ago, Lamb said. He lived at South Lake Tahoe for two months before taking the ranch job.

Lamb would not comment if Ortega was working alone or with a crew. He described the mason as a freelance worker.

California Highway Patrol Officer Lee Anderle in Placerville said his agency handled the death before it became a murder case.

“Since that time we received information and now consider the collision scene staged to cover the homicide,” Anderle said.

Authorities found the body on Aug. 2. A man reportedly entered the South Lake Tahoe substation of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department with an attorney and informed deputies of the crash.

Authorities did not disclose the identity of the man nor the owner of the ranch. Lamb estimated the car was below the embankment for a day or two before law enforcement learned of the matter.

Ortega’s family, who live in the Phoenix area, could not be reached for comment.

Lamb said authorities are waiting for toxicology results to determine if drugs or alcohol were present in Ortega’s system.

“It’s an interesting case,” Lamb said. “This one is a little bit unusual.”

Anyone with information on this matter should call Detective Paul Moschini at (530) 642-4719.

— Contact William Ferchland at (530) 542-8014 or

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