A Merced County Superior Court judge on Wednesday said the case of a Le Grand mother accused of killing her three children will proceed as if it were a death penalty case.
Judge Carol Ash made those statements during a brief hearing for Patricia Ortiz, who allegedly killed Anna Ortiz Lara, 8, Matteo Ortiz Lara, 5, and Alexa Ortiz Lara, 3. The children were found dead inside a Le Grand apartment on Jan. 12, and the defendant allegedly tried to take her own life.
Ortiz was scheduled to enter a plea, but Judge Ash continued the arraignment hearing until Feb. 4.
Merced County prosecutors haven't said whether they will pursue the death penalty against Ortiz, although Judge Ash is treating the case as such given the gravity of the allegations the defendant faces.
Ortiz appeared relatively calm and stoic while appearing via video conference during Wednesday's brief hearing. Judge Ash assigned Ortiz a public defender, after asking the defendant whether she could afford legal representation. Ortiz replied she could not.
Judge Ash ordered the defendant not to have any contact or correspondence whatsoever with the children's father, including by mail or social media.