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Sapello man charged with assault in land dispute

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By David Giuliani

A Sapello man is facing charges of threatening a nearby landowning family and their lawyer by throwing grapefruit-sized rocks and trying to blockade them from proceeding in their pickup truck.

Manuel Sena, 60, who is not the well-known Las Vegas insurance agent, was charged last year with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of false imprisonment. The alleged incident happened Oct. 30.

The victims were former San Miguel County Commissioner Susano Ortiz, his wife Lorenza Ortiz, his sister-in-law Maria Padilla and their Albuquerque attorney, Patrick Griebel.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for the case in Magistrate Court on Tuesday, but Judge Chris Najar announced that it had been waived, meaning it was bound over to state District Court.

On May 8, 2007, the Ortizes filed a lawsuit against the Sena family — Manuel, Audrey, Tranquilino and Robert John — alleging that the Senas falsely filed a warranty deed in November 2005 in the county clerk’s office stating that they owned part of the Ortizes’ property.

The Ortizes, originally represented by Las Vegas attorney Arthur Vargas, contended that the Senas’ action made it difficult for them to get title insurance or sell their property.

“The deed filed by the defendants is deficient, is untrue and disparaging to the plaintiffs’ property rights,” the lawsuit states.

The Senas, represented by Santa Fe attorney William Waggoner, denied the claims, contending that they owned the property in question.

In an interview Tuesday, Susano Ortiz said that a court in 1982 determined that the property in question — 274 acres, which is surrounded by Ortiz’s land — would be under the ownership of the Sena family. Since then, Ortiz said his family has bought a little more than half of the 274 acres — which Manuel Sena apparently doesn’t recognize.

“He’s playing the 800-pound gorilla around here,” Ortiz said.

District Judge Eugenio Mathis is the judge in the civil case. He got the case after fellow judge, Abigail Aragon, excused herself from the matter, saying she has relatives on both sides.