Murder suspect escapes from Sunland Center in Marianna

Police say to avoid Luis Fernando Ortiz-Rivera, since “he could potentially be dangerous.”
Chief Hayes Baggett says his department has been actively searching for Luis Fernando...
Chief Hayes Baggett says his department has been actively searching for Luis Fernando Ortiz-Rivera since 7:30 a.m. Friday.(Marianna Police Department)
Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 10:55 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 10, 2021 at 1:45 PM EST
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MARIANNA, Fla. (WCTV) - The Marianna Police Department says a man who escaped from the Sunland Center Friday morning is facing charges of aggravated assault and first-degree murder.

Chief Hayes Baggett says his department has been actively searching for Luis Fernando Ortiz-Rivera since 7:30 a.m. Friday. Ortiz-Rivera was court-ordered to be housed at Sunland, which is a center for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Hayes said Ortiz-Rivera was not being held in a secure facility at Sunland. He was in a residential housing unit with a screen window. The police chief said staff found a cut in the screen this morning in Ortiz-Rivera’s empty unit.

“If we find him, we’ve got to take him back to Sunland and turn him back over to those people,” Hayes said. “But that’s why we’re working with the state attorney’s office to see if there’s a way that once he is found, we can put him in a more secure facility.”

The Sunland Center is operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, or APD. A spokesperson for this state agency said APD was seeking to have Ortiz-Rivera returned to a more secure placement, with a hearing scheduled for January.

Court records show that earlier this year, a judge approved moving Ortiz-Rivera to a less restrictive facility. According to these records, he was declined placement at a group home in Leon County in June.

As recently as three weeks ago, court orders show the court was trying to move Ortiz to a facility closer to his family in Tampa.

Ortiz-Rivera’s charges for first-degree murder and aggravated assault are out of Broward County. The murder charge dates back to 2007.

“At this time, it is unknown of Ortiz-Rivera’s direction of travel,” the press release says.

Ortiz-Rivera is a Hispanic man with a full beard, around 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs roughly 220 pounds, according to police. MPD does not have a description of his clothing at this time.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says Marianna High and K-8 schools were placed under a soft lockdown because of Ortiz-Rivera’s escape.

“There is NO immediate threats and this is being done out of an abundance of caution. Extra school personnel and law enforcement are on site and your children are safe,” the sheriff’s office says.

As of 12:15 p.m., an exhaustive search was done at the Sunland facility with personnel from MPD, JCSO, Jackson County and Apalachee correctional institutions K-9 units and Sunland security, a press release said.

“The search is continuing for surrounding area and it is unknown if the subject is still in the immediate area,” the release said.

MPD said it is working with the 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office to secure a warrant or pickup order for Ortiz-Rivera.

If you see someone who matches Ortiz-Rivera’s description, contact MPD at 850-526-3125 or your local law enforcement agency.

“Please do not approach Ortiz-Rivera as he could potentially be dangerous,” the release says.

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