Man Sentenced to Life in ‘Savage’ Stabbing Death of College Student From Whittier on East L.A. Bus
A 29-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to 26 years to life in state prison for fatally stabbing a fellow passenger on a transit bus in East Los Angeles last year, prosecutors said.
A jury found Manuel Ortiz Jr. of Montebello guilty of first-degree murder on Sept. 9 in the apparently random killing of 22-year-old Austin Zavala, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Ortiz stabbed Zavala multiple times in his head and neck after boarding Montebello Bus Lines’ Route 10 on April 9, 2018, investigators say.
Ortiz was originally charged with attempted murder in the case, but the charge was upgraded when Zavala died two months after the attack, on June 10.
Zavala was a college student from Whittier, according to the DA’s office. He had not been publicly identified as the victim before Wednesday.
The defendant rode the bus more than 2 miles down Whittier Boulevard before launching the assault, according to court testimony.
Ortiz fled the scene but was arrested three days later after authorities released surveillance video from the bus in a bid to find him. The footage showed the attacker appeared calm before pulling a blade from his pants and lunging at Zavala.
Upon Ortiz’s arrest, then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell issued a statement calling the incident a “savage” and “seemingly unprovoked” attack that caused the department “great concern.”