It was on Aug. 11, 2002, when some Mountain Home airmen made a grisly discovery on their way to a remote fishing hole on the Snake River.
Those men found the burned-out shell of a late 1990s Pontiac Grand Am in the Elmore County desert. Three bodies were inside the wreckage, burned beyond recognition.
What they didnt know was that the charred remains were those of 29-year-old Rebecca Ramirez and two of her sons, 4-year-old Ricardo and 2-year-old Miguel.
Ramirez and her sons were shot and then set on fire most likely on July 30, 2002 to cover up what happened.
By the time their bodies were found, the man Elmore County sheriffs deputies say was responsible for this nightmare circumstance was either in California or had already left the United States, helped by family members to get back to his native Mexico.
On Monday, a jury of Elmore County residents will begin to determine the fate of Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco, who was once the focus of a segment on Americas Most Wanted.
Orozco, who was on the run for seven years before he was caught in Mexico in 2009, will spend about the next six weeks on trial on three counts of first-degree murder. Its doubtful he will ever leave prison if hes found guilty.
Elmore County investigators have said that Rebecca Ramirez and Lopez-Orozco had an on-again, off-again affair that was well-known in the community, though Lopez-Orozcos wife might not have been aware of it. Friends of Ramirez say she planned to end the relationship with Orozco because she found out he was married.
The morning of July 30, 2002, Orozco picked up Ramirez and her two youngest children from her fathers house in Nyssa. No one saw them again until the grisly discovery almost two weeks later.
PREPARING FOR TRIAL
A group of about 300 prospective jurors who gathered at the Mountain Home Elks Lodge earlier this month to fill out questionnaires about the case has been whittled down to 12, with three alternates.
That jury will hear testimony from detectives, FBI agents, prisoners who have talked to Orozco in jail, and some of Ramirezs surviving children.
Prosecutors have a list of about 50 potential witnesses.
Sixteen-year-old Noemi Ramirez testified in court earlier this year that she remembers the morning of July 30, 2002 the last time she saw her mom and two little brothers alive. Noemi was in Orozcos car with her family that morning before changing her mind and getting out.
The same preliminary hearing also had testimony from one of Orozcos neighbors, who said she brought him some gas that day after he called a friend and said he had run out. That woman told a judge that she saw somebody lying down in the back seat of Orozcos car.
One thing the trial will dispel is the rumor that Ramirez was pregnant when she was killed. That was not the case, and Elmore County prosecutors filed a notice earlier this fall that no such evidence would be presented in the case. Prosecutors suspect the rumor got started because Orozcos wife gave birth around the time of the killings.
Though first-degree murder can be punished with execution in Idaho, Elmore County prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. That was part of the agreement that allowed Orozco to be extradited to the United States from Mexico.
THE SEARCH FOR OROZCO
Investigators say his family including his brother, Simon got him out of Idaho shortly after the slayings and took him to northern California, where he stayed briefly before heading to Mexico.
Local, state and federal law enforcement searched for Orozco and Simon for years without luck.
In 2006, Simon Orozcos girlfriend, Maria Garcia, was arrested in California and brought to Idaho on an accessory to murder charge; that was dropped for lack of evidence.
Her attorney, Raul Labrador now a U.S. congressman from Idaho said Garcia was told to give Orozco cash and access to a car, but didnt know why until after the fact.
It wasnt until three years later that the FBI got a big break in the case, in the form of a tip from a Mexican citizen.
The FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and Mexican police captured Orozco in the Mexican state of Guerrero, near the town of Zihuatanejo, in October 2009. The FBI said Orozco was hauling a load of metal into a scrap yard when he was taken into custody.
Orozco spent the next year and a half in a Mexican jail while that country and the U.S. worked out extradition. He was brought to Idaho in March 2011 and has been in the Elmore County Jail since then. Orozco has pleaded not guilty.
Local, state and federal law enforcement continue to look for Simon Orozco.
FAMILY KEEPS GOING
Martin Hernandez Jr. took in Rebecca Ramirezs five surviving children after the killings in 2002 and has raised them. He is the biological father of her three oldest children.
Two of Ramirezs older boys, now in their 20s, have kids of their own.
Its been challenging for Martin he has had to be both mom and dad for those kids, said Helen Hernandez, Martins mother. Im really proud of him.
The family is anxious about the upcoming trial and will be relieved when its over, said Helen Hernandez.
This whole thing has taken forever. ... We just hope this will finally be the end, Hernandez said. The kids are really strong. They do want it over with. We just hope they put (Orozco) away forever.
Helen Hernandez says she is OK with the fact that Orozco cant receive the death penalty.
I want those faces (of Rebecca and the two boys) to be the first thing (Orozco) sees every day he wakes up and the last thing he sees before he goes to sleep for a long time, she said.
Patrick Orr: 377-6219, Twitter: @IDS_Orr