Paso Robles man pleads not guilty to killing migrant farm worker

More than a month after his arrest, a rural Paso Robles man accused of stabbing a migrant farm worker to death in July entered a plea to the murder charge against him in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Fausto Ortega Maldonado, 28, pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder and denied a sentencing enhancement attached to the charge alleging the personal use of a deadly weapon.

Ortega Maldonado, 28, is accused of killing 20-year-old Primitivo Pacheco Ortega, no relation, who the Sheriff’s Office said worked as a migrant farm worker.

Pacheco Ortega’s body was found on the side of the road off Estrella Road near Hog Canyon in early July.

Ortega Maldonado has been in County Jail custody without bail since the District Attorney’s Office announced the murder charge on Aug. 26.

He is not a United States citizen and has previously been deported, county Sheriff Ian Parkinson said at an August news conference.

The case has proceeded slowly through the arraignment process in part due to Ortega Maldonado’s use of a form of Mixteco, a regional language common only in parts of Mexico.

Primitivo Pacheco Ortega, 20, was found stabbed to death in rural Paso Robles on July 7, 2019. Courtesy photo

He’s been accompanied at each of his four arraignments by an interpreter certified in the language, according to court records.

Officials have not released information about what relationship Ortega Maldonado and Pacheco Ortega shared, but Sheriff’s Office officials previously said their investigation was especially challenging because nearly all of the people interviewed spoke different regional Spanish dialects.

Ortega Maldonado had already been in custody at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he was serving a 60-day sentence for felony domestic violence, when he was re-arrested and charged with murder in August.

On July 7, Pacheco Ortega, was found dead with “multiple stab wounds” off Estrella Road near Hog Canyon, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He did not have any identification on him when he was found, and detectives identified him through fingerprints, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Sheriff’s Office held a news conference in August announcing his arrest.

Ortega Maldonado is due back in court for a pre-preliminary hearing Oct. 15.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.