The trial for one of the two remaining suspects in a 2006 massacre at a south Forsyth farmhouse won’t begin this week as planned.
According to an order signed by Forsyth County Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley, Frank Ortegon’s trial has been continued to Aug. 13. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Monday.
In addition, the order shows that Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn announced her plans to withdraw the state’s intention to seek the death penalty against Ortegon.
He and Marcin Sosniak have pleaded not guilty to the 20 charges they both face in connection with the March 19, 2006, shooting deaths of four people, including three teenagers, at a farmhouse on Ronald Reagan Boulevard.
A third defendant, Jason McGhee, avoided the death penalty when he pleaded guilty on Dec. 19 to four counts of malice murder, three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated assault and burglary.
Prosecutors and investigators have said McGhee stabbed and shot the victims in the case. McGhee is serving four consecutive life sentences, plus 100 years without the possibility of parole.
He has agreed to cooperate and testify in the cases against Ortegon and Sosniak and is banned from seeking clemency.
Penn said Friday she asked to continue Ortegon’s trial because of another murder trial, which involved two defendants and wrapped up Tuesday, that was expected to go on for two weeks or longer.
Penn and Assistant District Attorney James Dunn prosecuted the February trial together and she said Dunn is working on Ortegon’s case as well.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge, who is also involved with the Ortegon case, would not have been available due to another trial.
“We just didn’t have the resources to have these two trials, finish them and then get Ortegon ready,” Penn said. “Based on the facts of this case, what I anticipate them to be, I just don’t think the death penalty is necessary or appropriate.”
She added that she hopes Ortegon will plead guilty before the August trial date.
Jeff Purvis, one of the two attorneys appointed to represent Ortegon, declined to comment on the matter.
Attempts to reach Bobby Wilson, lead counsel in Ortegon’s defense, were unsuccessful.
Sosniak’s appointed attorneys have filed a notice of appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court in response to Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David L. Dickinson’s denial in October of their request to dismiss the case.
Penn said she expects the high court to issue its opinion on the matter this summer. A trial date could be set after that.