It was Halloween weekend of 2010 and things were starting to come together for 18-year-old David Ortiz Jr.
The young father from Silver City, New Mexico had just been granted visitation with his then 1-year-old son, Joshua. And after diligent studying, he was just around the corner from the day that he would earn his GED - which happened to be the same time his mother was earning hers.
For David, that day would never come.
“I got mine for him,” his mother, Elizabeth Ortiz, told Dateline tearfully. “We were supposed to do it together. But my son was taken from me.”
It’s been 11 years since David Sr. and Elizabeth Ortiz last saw their son, who they lovingly call Junior. Now, with the anniversary of his disappearance this Halloween weekend, his family just wants closure and is pleading for someone with information to come forward.
“It may only be one person who knows what happened, but all we need is one,” his mother said. “We know he’s not with us anymore. “We know he was murdered that night. And he deserves justice.”
David Jr.’s parents told Dateline it was about 5 p.m. when their son left his grandparents’ house and had planned to go hang out with friends Halloween night. But he never showed up.
A cousin of David’s later told his parents that David had stopped in at the Snappy Mart on Swan Street, where the cousin worked, around 9 p.m. that evening to buy cigarettes. It was the last time anyone saw him.
For David to disappear without a trace made no sense to his family and friends. His parents told Dateline that just days earlier he was granted visitation with his then 1-year-old son, Joshua, after a year-long custody battle with the boy’s mother.
“He was so happy to have Joshua back in his life,” his father said. “He was so happy to be a father. And he was a great father.”
David and his parents had their first visitation with the baby on October 30. The next day, he was gone.
After exhausting all of their own efforts to find David Jr., his parents reported him missing to the Silver City Police Department, on November 3.
Rumors of David’s fate swirled in the small town, and his parents said they made sure to bring every single one to the police department’s attention. They told Dateline that there were rumors David Jr. had been beaten and thrown into a trunk and driven out of town or that he was buried in the Silver City landfill.
Captain Melinda Hobbs with the Silver City Police Department didn’t take over David Jr.’s case until 2019, but she told Dateline that there have been countless tips and leads followed up on by police over the years.
In November 2010, she said, police executed a search warrant at a home in the 700 block of Mountain View Road. They searched both the residence and the property, but found nothing.
In April 2011, acting on another tip, they executed a search warrant at the Southwest Solid Waste Authority landfill on Ridge Road. But again, nothing.
In June 2012, another tip led them to Santa Clara, where they executed a search warrant at a home in the 100 block of South Bellm, and brought in a cadaver dog. Still no trace of David.
Another search warrant was executed at a home in the 800 block of Mobile Drive, in Silver City. And in February 2017, an inmate sent a map marked with an “X” indicating human remains at a site that led police to execute a search warrant at a house off East Street in Santa Clara. There, they found bones, but they turned out to be animal bones.
In 2020, search warrants were executed at the home of a person police consider to be a person of interest in David’s case. But again, nothing was found.
The case changed hands multiple times over years before landing on the desk of Melinda Hobbs. Although she was recently promoted to Captain, she said she has continued to work on David’s case.
“I knew I needed to dedicate time to his case,” she told Dateline. “We haven’t given up. But we need help from the public. If someone has information, we need them to come forward.”
Hobbs told Dateline that they are treating David’s case as suspicious and that they have people in mind who they believe were involved in his disappearance. She added that they are working on new leads in the case, but could not comment due to the case being open and active.
“We feel like the people who have information are too scared to come forward,” she added. “But we need their help.”
David Jr.’s parents told Dateline they understand the fear people have in coming forward with information. There have been too many people loosely connected to David Jr.’s disappearance who have ended up dead, his parents said.
One of those was their own daughter, David’s sister, Nichole.
Christopher Calloway, 23, was arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Nichole Leon Ortiz, 21, in September 2012. Nichole was the mother of their infant son, who was inside the residence at the time of the shooting.
According to court documents, Calloway told Silver City Police that he had been drinking and that he and Nichole were arguing over beans. He had two pistols, a .22 caliber and a .357 caliber revolver, and said the two were playing Russian Roulette “to a certain extent.”
He said he had unloaded the .357 “except one bullet” and “put the revolver to his head and pulled the trigger twice.” He said Nichole then grabbed the gun, put it to her head and pulled the trigger. He said he then tried to get the gun from her and it went off, killing her.
In November 2014, Calloway appeared before Sixth Judicial Court Judge J.C. Robinson and agreed to plead no contest to charges of child abuse and negligent use of a deadly weapon in exchange for the state dropping the murder charge.
David and Nichole’s parents told Dateline they believe Nichole was killed because she found out Calloway was allegedly involved or knew someone involved in David’s death.
“Silver City is a small community,” Elizabeth said. “And there is a lot of corruption here. And if you’re on the side of those covering things up, you don’t get in trouble. But if you go against them, you end up like my daughter.”
Capt. Hobbs told Dateline that there does not appear to be any connection between David’s disappearance and the deaths or other mysterious disappearances in the community. But she does believe there are people in the community, Calloway included, who have information about David’s disappearance. She added that the department is working to interview and re-interview multiple people in the community and persons of interest who are believed to be involved.
David’s mother used to stop by the police station often to meet with investigators. The meetings have slowed since COVID but she also believes that not enough is being done on her son’s case.
Over the years, they have reached out to other agencies to request help investigating their son’s disappearance. But she says not many people have been interested in the case of the missing Hispanic man who was excited to be a father and earn his GED.
They are pushing for the state police to take over the case, so more resources can be put toward finding David and getting justice.
In the meantime, they are raising Damian, their daughter Nichole’s son, who is now 9 years old. But they don’t have much contact with Joshua, David Jr.’s son, though they would like to, as they say there is tension between the two families.
For now, they continue to wait and pray for someone to come forward with information that will bring David home.
“Somebody knows something,” Elizabeth said. “Maybe just one person. But one person is all it takes.”
Anyone with information about David’s case is asked to call the Silver City Police Department at (575) 538-3723.