Jessica Ann Marie Ortega knew her estranged boyfriend was going to kill her.
And in a lawsuit filed Oct. 3 in Superior Court, the 27-year-old’s loved ones alleged Pierce County sheriff’s deputies didn’t do enough to respond to her pleas for help before her death.
The mother of two died Feb. 20, 2016, when 41-year-old Marcos Perea shot her at the University Place nursing home where she worked.
Shortly thereafter, law enforcement officers found Perea, who they shot and killed him when he fired at them.
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The scathing suit against Pierce County calls the Sheriff’s Department’s response to Ortega’s pleas for help lazy, nonchalant, uncaring, cavalier and grossly negligent.
“Defendants violated their statutory duty to protect Jessica by allowing Perea to hunt for and kill Jessica when they had direct knowledge he was on a murderous rampage, was threatening to kill Jessica and could be easily located and apprehended since he was on an ankle monitor with GPS tracking,” it reads.
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said in a statement about the complaint: “We continue to extend our condolences to Ms. Ortega’s family and friends, but having just received this document, we see that it contains significant misunderstandings and misinterpretations.”
An attorney for the family, Meaghan Driscoll, said they wanted to file the suit in October in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The complaint seeks unspecified damages on behalf of Ortega’s estate and her children, ages 5 and 7.
It gives this account of the days leading up to her death:
Ortega had been taking a shower at home on Feb. 17 when Perea showed up in the bathroom and held a gun to her head for 45 minutes. He told her several times it was her time to die.
She escaped and called 911. She met with deputies and wrote a domestic violence report, explaining what had happened.
The deputies learned Perea was a violent felon, had a handgun, had assaulted Ortega, had a GPS ankle monitor and was on probation.
When they left, investigators told Ortega they’d meet her the next day to help her safely move out of her house.
“Jessica anxiously waited for the deputies to arrest Perea, constantly checking the Pierce County jail inmate roster,” the complaint reads.
The next day she called 911 from a rental truck, two blocks from her home, because the deputies had told her to contact them to protect her during the move.
“Jessica again told dispatch that Perea had pulled a gun on her, she was in fear for her life, that Perea needed to be arrested and that she needed police protection,” the suit states.
After she waited for two hours by her home, a dispatcher told her she needed a restraining order before deputies could escort her.
She got a temporary one the next day. In her written request to the court, she said she feared Perea would be upset when he learned she was leaving him.
The Sheriff’s Department hadn’t served Perea with the order by that night, and Ortega called 911 twice more from her mother’s house.
Perea needed to be arrested or served with the order, she said, adding she was “in immediate danger of being murdered,” the complaint reads.
She called back to tell dispatchers Perea was on an ankle monitor. She also told them where he was, that he had a gun and that he was calling her repeatedly to say he was on his way to kill her.
Two hours later, deputies went to Perea’s house about 1 a.m. on Feb. 20. His car was in the garage, and they thought they heard someone inside.
“Despite having the knowledge and ability to arrest Perea and to enter the home, the defendants simply stood around and waited a few minutes and then left,” the suit says.
Perea was angry that Ortega had called police, and drove around with his gun until he knew Ortega would be at work.
He walked into the University Place Care Center at 5520 Bridgeport Way W. about 6:15 a.m. and shot her.
The two were to be in court a couple weeks later, on March 4, for a commissioner to consider making Ortega’s temporary restraining order long-term.
Without Ortega there, it expired at 3 p.m.