Family files lawsuit after woman killed in Schenectady apartment building

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The family of a woman murdered by her neighbor is filing a lawsuit against the non-profit that placed her killer in the apartment building.

A man who killed his neighbor and threw her in the basement allegedly told his social worker she was a busy body and something was going to happen to her.

She was just the first victim.

Now her family wants to know why her killer was allowed to keep living in the same building.

Attorney Steven Kouray said it’s simple.

“They never warned her; they never gave her a head’s up,” he said.

In September 2015, Valerie Washington, 55, was killed by Harold Ortiz. She was strangled in the basement of her apartment building at 1330 Union St. in Schenectady.

Another man, Ralph Carson, was also left for dead. He barely made it out alive.

Ortiz is serving 30 years to life in prison for the murder, but Washington’s family is still seeking justice.

Weeks before he killed Washington, Ortiz was released after a 17-year prison stint for Attempted Murder. Kouray said warning signs that Ortiz was still dangerous became evident right away.

“You know, this was a guy who obviously could not make it on the outside,” Kouray said.

Ortiz used the non-profit Mohawk Opportunities, Inc. to find housing. According to the complaint filed in Schenectady County Court, the organization was aware of Ortiz’s issues.

On one page, it reads Ortiz “lost his temper and was in crisis.” The police had to be called, and Mohawk decided that a safety plan needed to be put into place.

“This was a very volatile, dangerous person,” Kouray said. “They set their own policies that no one was to be alone with him ever.”

In addition, the report states Ortiz directly made remarks about Washington.

“Mr. Ortiz made specific threats about Valerie Washington saying that she was a busy body, that she should mind her own business, and that somebody should do something about her,” Kouray said.

At one point in the report, it claims Ortiz told one employee at Mohawk Opportunity that he was an “assassin by night.”

Now the family is asking, if all of this was known about Ortiz, why wasn’t Washington warned?

NEWS10 ABC went to Mohawk Opportunities on Wednesday to ask, but despite it still being business hours, no one responded.

In the meantime, the family is left waiting for answers.

“It’s a hard thing to accept, but they are survivors,” Kouray said.

In addition to Mohawk Opportunity, Inc., the family is also suing the former landlord of the apartment building.

The family is prepared to go to trial if need be.

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