A 32-year-old father from Oakmont, Pa., was found guilty in a non-jury trial Thursday of abuse, assault, and murder in the 2020 death of his 3-year-old daughter, Bella Seachrist.
Judge Bruce R. Beemer convicted Jose Eduardo Salazar-Ortiz of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas records reviewed by Law&Crime show. Prior to her death, Bella was “tortured” and “looked like a child out of a concentration camp,” according to a pediatrician’s testimony cited by WPXI.
According to the Allegheny County Police Department, police responded on the afternoon of June 9, 2020, to a Tenth Street residence regarding a report that Bella Seachrist was “unresponsive” in a bathtub.
“When officers and paramedics arrived, they found the child appearing to be badly bruised and malnourished. Officers and medics performed life saving measures and transported the child to an area hospital where the child was pronounced deceased,” authorities said.
Two women were also arrested in the case, but their criminal cases have yet to go to trial.
Investigators determined that the victim “suffered from prolonged physical and mental abuse” and that Salazar-Ortiz, Bella’s 30-year-old stepmom Laura Michelle Ramriez (note: this is the spelling of the last name that appears in court records), and Ramriez’s 23-year-old sister Alexis Melissa Herrera were all to blame.
Herrera, of Charlotte, N.C., faces charges of aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, unlawful restraint of a minor, and criminal homicide. Ramriez is charged with aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children, unlawful restraint, criminal homicide, conspiracy, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.
Ramriez and Salazar-Ortiz reportedly have three other children together. Bella’s biological mother Nicole Seachrist lost custody of her daughter, placing the girl in the care of her father and stepmom Ramriez.
“I will never get to hear my daughter call me mommy. I will never get to see her graduate. I will never get to see her go to college. I will never get to see her get married,” Seachrist told KDKA in 2020, adding: “I want them to pay for what they did.”
She asserted that Ramriez acted “out of spite” because Bella wasn’t her biological child.
“I’m disgusted, I’m angry, and pissed off,” Seachrist added.
Records say that Salazar-Ortiz’s sentencing is set for Aug. 8.
The next scheduled action in Herrera’s case, a motions hearing, is set for May 31. Jury selection in Ramriez’s case is currently set to begin at 9 a.m. on June 22.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]