By Frank C. Girardot, Staff Writer
COVINA — When she was killed on Christmas Eve with eight members of her family, Alice Ortiz unwittingly broke the lease she held on an apartment in Upland.
Now the landlord, Broadcrest Foothill Apartment Homes, wants its money, $2,821.23 in all, according to documents obtained Wednesday. A Jan. 29 itemized invoice to Ortiz’s survivors claims she owes $1,655 to the apartment complex on North Central Avenue for “insufficient notice to vacate.” The company also billed Ortiz for 12 days’ rent and other fees accrued in January, weeks after she died.
“This is just low,” said attorney Scott Nord, who represents surviving victims of the massacre and their family members. Candyse Wardlow, who identified herself as the business manager for the property, refused to comment Wednesday. “Unfortunately, I can’t discuss anything,” Wardlow said. “I can’t go into what happened. I can’t make any comment.” Messages left at the company’s corporate office were not returned.
Alice Ortiz shared the apartment with her son, Michael, and her daughters Monique and Cecily, Nord said. Alice and Michael Ortiz were among nine family members killed on Christmas Eve by Bruce Pardo, the disgruntled ex-husband of Alice’s sister, Sylvia, authorities said. Also killed were Alice’s parents, Joseph and Alicia Ortega; her brothers Charles and James Ortega; and their wives, Cheri and Theresa.
Alice’s daughters have since moved in with their father, Carlos Ortiz, who lives in Ontario.
“I’m dealing with my son’s death and the death of my ex-wife, and then they want to put up these kind of roadblocks. I just don’t understand it,” Carlos Ortiz said Wednesday. “They knew we would have to vacate.”
Nord said apartment managers began seeking rent from the family in early January.
“I got a call from the landlord after everything happened, saying Alice didn’t pay her rent,” Nord said. “I asked, ‘Have you seen the news? Her kids just lost their mom.'” The apartment-management company followed up the conversation with a three-day notice to pay rent or leave, Nord said.
“So we had to get them out by Jan. 13, despite the fact that everything else was going on, dealing with the coroner, all these horrible things.” Carlos Ortiz said he would have no problem paying for cleaning and repairs to the apartment, but felt that being told the estate would have to pay for breaking the lease was stunning. “Everything’s been like a whirlwind since Christmas,” he said. “It’s sad. We had to fight them for two weeks just to get the stuff out. We thought that was the end of it.”
Nord said he’s had several conversations with the management company seeking some relief for the family on ethical or moral grounds. “I asked, ‘Do you really want to enforce this?'” Nord recalled. “Their response was, ‘Our lawyers say we can.'” Offers of help for the Ortega family in the wake of the Christmas Eve massacre have come in from around the world, Nord said. We had donations from around the country and even as far away as Switzerland,” he said. “You never expect the kind of generosity we’ve seen.
“Toyota took the cars back and never said, ‘We want our money,'” Nord said. “Other creditors said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ But what’s going on here, we think it’s just ridiculous.”