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Hartford Cold Case Murder Suspect Faces Judge

A 39-year-old former Hartford resident charged Friday with a 2003 murder on Main Street has hired a well-known criminal defense attorney from New Haven.

Rafael Ortiz, 39, who was charged by investigators from the Chief State’s Attorney’s cold case squad, has hired William Dow of New Haven, whose past clients include former Gov. John G. Rowland.

Until his arrest on the murder charge, Ortiz was serving a drug-dealing sentence in a New York prison.

The details of the state’s case against Ortiz remain out of public view because the warrant for his arrest was ordered sealed for 14 days.

Ortiz is accused of shooting and killing Benjamin “Benji” Baez, 27, in June 2003 as Baez sat in a parked car near 1305 Main St. Baez had been the target of another gunman in May 2003. Another person died in that shooting and the shooter, Roosevelt Drakes, is serving a 30-year prison sentence.

At Ortiz’s arraignment Monday, Dow urged Hartford Superior Court Judge Tammy Nguyen-O’Dowd to reduce Ortiz’s bail so that he would not be confined to the state’s supermax prison, Northern Correctional Institution.

Prosecutor Reed Durham told the judge that Ortiz “was very well known to the Hartford police department prior to his incarceration” and described him as a major heroin dealer and a person with “substantial resources.”

The judge left Ortiz’s bail at $2 million and ordered him back to court Oct. 31.

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