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July 31, 2021

Couple charged in fatal West Jordan shooting of ex-boyfriend

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman and man were charged Monday after police say they killed the woman’s former boyfriend and then took a large amount of drugs that he was allegedly distributing.

The woman told investigators it wasn’t the first time she tried to kill her ex, according to charging documents.

Jayton Trevor Merrill, 18, of Grantsville, and Sarah Elaine Lobato, 20, of Kearns, were each charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, both first-degree felonies, and obstructing justice, a second-degree felony. Merrill received an additional charge of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.

On Nov. 19, shortly after 2 a.m., West Jordan police responded to the area of Ticklegrass Road and Sparrowtail Road (approximately 7000 South and 5200 West) on a report of multiple gunshots. Officers arrived to find Raymond Ortiz Jr., 39, of Santa Rosa, California, deceased in the road next to a large van.

Video obtained by police from a nearby home recorded Ortiz pulling up on the residential street, stopping and turning off his headlights, charging documents state. A short time later, another vehicle pulled up next to the van and three shots were immediately fired into the van, according to the charges.

The van then moved and began to push the other car, the charges state. Merrill got out of the car and fired two more shots into the van, according to the charges. Lobato was then seen dragging two large bags from the van and putting them in her car, according to the charges. As Merrill and Lobato attempted to drive away, the van hit them from behind for a second time, according to charging documents.

After police made a request to the public for information about the crime, detectives received a tip that the damaged car was parked at Lobato’s home in Kearns with a tarp covering it, the charges state.

As officers were preparing a search warrant for the house, Merrill and Lobato pulled up in another vehicle and were stopped by police. Inside the vehicle, investigators found a notebook being used as a ledger for drug distribution, several firearm magazines and ammunition, and a bag from a company that sells marijuana, the charges state.

When questioned by detectives, Lobato said she had been in a relationship with Ortiz and had recently returned to Utah from California.

“She described the relationship as bad and said she had attempted to end it several times. Lobato told detectives that while she was in California she tried to kill Raymond with a poisonous plant but was unsuccessful because she used the wrong plant,” according to the charges.

After returning to Utah, she met Merrill and stated “she was in love with Merrill and would do anything for him,” the charges state. She also told Merrill how she was afraid of Ortiz, and then “stated that she set up the entire thing.”

Lobato said she looked up a location on Google Maps to arrange a meeting with Ortiz. At the designated meeting location, Lobato drove up next to Ortiz and Merrill, who was in the passenger seat, and shot him, the charges state. Lobato then said “I’m gonna make this worth my while,” and grabbed two bags containing approximately 50 pounds of marijuana from Ortiz’s van, and put them in her own car, according to the charges.

When interviewed by police, Merrill denied any involvement, the charges state.

Ortiz had been to Utah before and had a prior criminal history for drug distribution, according to police.

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