Two life sentences for Ortiz in Beach murder

Abel Ortiz was given two Life sentences Tuesday for his part in the Dec. 29, 2019 attempted robbery and murder of Edward Kenneth Ross in his Panama City Beach home, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

The defendant was found guilty as charged Sept. 22 of First Degree Felony Murder and Attempted Robbery with a Firearm after a three-day trial. He was one of three gunmen who burst into the Ross home Dec. 29, armed and seeking to rob the victim. Instead, all three shot at the victim, with the defendant shooting 7 times and hitting the victim with 3 bullets, including a final shot to the back.

Prosecutor Mark Graham addresses Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay, asking for the maximum sentence.

The gunmen fled as the victim died before his father’s eyes.

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“Mr. Ortiz, in some way your robbery was a success,” the victim’s father told the court in his Victim Impact Statement. “You robbed me of a son and the family that he would have … I now have to live for the rest of my life with the images of my son laying on the floor bleeding out, gasping for air and watching as the life light in his eyes went out while I was on the phone with 911.”

Bay County Chief Prosecutor Mark Graham asked for the maximum sentence.

“Out of the accomplices and shooters, this defendant is the most vicious,” Bay County Chief Prosecutor Mark Graham told Circuit Court Judge Shonna Young Gay at sentencing. “The defendant deserves the same mercy that he showed Edward Ross that night when he leaned over the couch and shot him in the back as he lay helpless on the floor.”

Because the defendant was a juvenile – he was about 6 months away from turning 18 when the crime occurred – the sentencing was guided by different Florida Statutes than it would have been for an adult.

The defendant, right, and his attorney in court Tuesday.

That started with the jury’s verdict form, which included special “findings” for both charges that jurors had to decide. On the First Degree Felony Murder Charge, jurors found that the defendant actually possessed and discharged a firearm causing great bodily harm or death, and that he killed or intended to kill the victim. This meant the minimum sentence the defendant faced would be 40 years, with the first 25 years being served day-for-day. The maximum sentence was Life.

On the Attempted Robbery with a Firearm charge, in addition to finding the defendant guilty, jurors found he possessed and discharged a firearm during the crime causing “great bodily harm or death” to the victim. That also carried a maximum sentence of Life in prison.

And regardless of the sentence, under Florida Law the defendant, because he was a juvenile at the time, will be eligible for a sentencing review after 25 years.

Graham, in asking for the maximum, pointed out the defendant was only six months away from being an adult when he committed the murder, was a willing and eager participant, fired multiple times including a final shot to the back as the victim lay helpless, and bragged about the killing to others.

Graham also noted the defendant had a lengthy criminal history with 13 arrests prior to the homicide. And since his arrest and turning 18, Graham said, the defendant has had 15 disciplinary actions at the Bay County Jail.

Prosecutor Mark Graham addressing jurors during Ortiz’ trial.

Finally, Graham introduced courtroom footage taken after the verdict was delivered and as jurors were being escorted out. As they passed the defense table, the defendant cursed at them.

“The defendant continues to demonstrate that he cannot comply with rules and/or directions,” Graham said, adding later, “The defendant’s extensive juvenile history and the number of juvenile sanctions that were imposed on the defendant clearly shows that he has little or no chance to be rehabilitated.”

Judge Gay, in handing down 2 Life sentences, ordered that they be served concurrently as required by law.

For additional information, contact Mike Cazalas at, or call 850-381-7454.