PHOENIX – Every 21 March, Roberta Tortice says “Happy Birthday” for her youngest child — the same words she spoke when she first held the girl, her face perfectly and beautifully.
But for more than a decade, she has seen Katherine “Kat” Tortice only in photos. She wears a light-colored dress on her eighth grade graduation, sitting in a hall outside her bedroom after claiming they cleaned, ready to play basketball in a red shirt, while out on a boarding school in Oregon.
“You see she’s always happy,” the proud mother says.
That his ways, she recalls the 16-year-old who was killed and buried in a shallow grave on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona in November 2006.
Roberta Tortice had suspected Cat then-boyfriend Andre Hinton was responsible, but it was not until ten years later that a federal grand jury indicted Hinton in the second degree murder charges. The federal government has jurisdiction for major crimes on the reservation.
The 36-year-old Hinton pleaded guilty earlier this year to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was on Tuesday sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Prosecutors said that the present of, for example, an old case to a jury, would be risky as witnesses ‘ memories fade and documents are lost. They had no direct evidence against Hinton and ensure a jury might not view the teen who admitted to helping bury the Cat’s body as credible, given his criminal past.
“I don’t think there’s any dispute this is an indirect case,” prosecutor Dimitra Sampson told The Associated Press. “It’s putting all the pieces together. No one was there except the two of them.”
Roberta Tortice and her family wanted to Hinton locked up for life and for him to show remorse.
He said nothing about her or the crime of his conviction.
“He killed my daughter, buried her, and he will (involuntary) manslaughter?” Tortice told The Associated Press. “That is the part that I do not understand. But he’s going to face the true judge one day.”
Savannah Abraham, Hinton’s sister and one of Cat’s best friends, was torn but made no excuses for him.
“I hope he comes out better than when he came in,” she said.
In court documents, Hinton acknowledged striking Cat in the head. She lost consciousness, but he did not seek medical assistance. He and Charles Jones later her body is buried, burned, their clothing, and dumped into the graves of the tools in a pond near the highway.
Prosecutors said Hinton abused several women over the years, with the help of his hands, a stove pipe, a stick, and possibly an electric cord as weapons. Court documents detail the woman bruising, bleeding, swelling, scratches and scars. Some were knocked unconscious.
The court Tuesday found that the history of the account in sentencing Hinton.
His lawyer, Mark Paige, suggested in court that the death was an accident. He said Hinton was afraid and wanted to call the police, but Jones advised him.
It was not uncommon for the Cat to disappear with Hinton and back to home with injuries, court documents state. Cat’s sister, Daisy and her mother told authorities the Cat would cringe from the pain as they cuddled or touched her because of the injuries that Hinton caused.
At the end of October 2006, they said they filed a missing persons report with the tribal police. It would be weeks before her body was found.
Roberta Tortice said they drove back and forth on a local highway for work that did not know that her daughter was buried in the neighbourhood. She and her late husband were looking in the woods in McNary and begged the police to help, ” she said.
“They say that time will heal, but you never heal from losing a child, especially when your child is brutally murdered,” Tortice wrote in a letter Tuesday.
Authorities said Jones, the teenager who helped Hinton to be buried Cat the body, led them to her grave after getting into a fight with a Cat brother. White Mountain Apache police responded and repeated in the federal authorities.
But the authorities do not have enough to charge Hinton and the case sat for a year, but it was judged on time.
FBI special agent Scott Flake took over in 2015. He re-interviewed Jones and heard details that no one else would have known: the cemetery located on a map, a half-eaten burrito Cat in the bag and the location of the digging tools.
An FBI dive team searched the pond in 2016 and found a rounded wooden handle where Jones said it would be. “A lot of things came together with a persistent pressure to see what was going on,” Flake said.
Medical researchers have determined the Cat died of a bleeding in the brain caused by the hit to her head. Hinton’s explanation for her death with the evidence, she said.
After the Cat ‘ s body was exhumed from the frozen soil in December 2006, her family had a closed casket, the funeral service. Hinton is not present.
Roberta Tortice ask if they had enough to protect the Cat or her daughter cried for her. She closed her eyes tightly with Daisy at her side.
“I am sure that God needed her more,” Daisy said.