Triple slaying in 1967 is still on the minds of many
A horrific crime was committed in January 1967 by a 14-year-old boy when three people were murdered as they slept.
Ronnie Lee Ozio had lived in Groves with his mother since his parents had been separated for several years. But, he had decided he wanted to live with his father in Orange. Three months before he moved to his father’s apartment at Sussex Manner, although he was not in a dispute with his mother, desperately wanted to live with his father and packed up his belongings and rode his bicycle over the bridge and all the way to Orange.
A witness at the scene, 14-year-old Debi Mayberry, was unharmed during the murderous spree. She later told investigators what happened in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 1.
According to archives, Debi Mayberry said they were returning from her hometown of Foreman, Ark. to bring Ronnie back to his father’s house after a two week visit.
Visiting from Foreman was his fathers fiancée’, Bobby Mayberry, 35, and her two children. 14 year old Debi and 16 year old Craig. Also living in the one-bedroom apartment was Ronnie’s grandmother, 77 year old Victoria Ozio.
They arrived at about 8:30 p.m. and spent the remainder of the evening playing checkers and reading books. Sometime about 2 a.m., they all went to bed. She was sleeping next to her mother when she was later awoke to the sound of someone moaning. Her mother also heard the sound and got out of bed. Ronnie Ozio shot her twice. Debi Mayberry grabbed her mother as she fell and blood seeped from her body onto the floor.
At about this time, Ronnie also shot his grandmother. Debi Mayberry frantically called the operator for an ambulance to come right away. Dispatchers thought it was a prank and didn’t send help right away, but when a second call came in, they were sure an ambulance was certainly needed.
Debi Mayberry then went into the living room to lock the door. She could hear her brother, Craig, on the porch in a struggle with Ronnie Ozio. But, she was in fear Ronnie Ozio would come back inside and so she locked the door.
A short time later, officers were at the scene. Craig was found alive, but with the blade of a butcher knife plunged deep into his back. He was taken to the hospital where surgery was performed. He would eventually recover from his injuries.
When investigators entered the small apartment, they found bullet holes and a considerable amount of blood. They also found Ronnie’s father, 39 year old John Ozio, with a arrow plunged about 4 inches into his chest. John Ozio pulled from arrow with the “ugly jagged hunting tip” from his chest. Ronnie then shot him twice before moving on to other victims.
Ronnie rained .22 caliber bullets over the inside of the apartment. The bullets hit the victims in the head or upper body areas. Many of the bullets managed to completely go through the bodies.
The gun was later found empty by investigators. The victims were taken to local hospitals where they died with the exception of Craig. Debi Mayberry went to the local hospital still in the clothes she was wearing during the horrific ordeal. With her mother’s blood on her shirt, pants and coat, she was told of her mother’s death. But, she soon composed herself and called family members in Arkansas to inform them of the events and for her uncle to come and get her. He would arrive after driving the 290 miles within a few hours.
Debi Mayberry was not harmed which left her questioning why she was allowed to live.
Ronnie was no where to be found. He later returned to the scene of the crime, but the door was locked and he could not get inside. He was dressed in jeans and a shirt, but was not wearing shoes. Ronnie had been hiding in a nearby lumber yard. Shivering he went to a neighbor’s house and calmly asked her to call the police.
Officers came and took him to the hospital for examination. A short time later he was taken to the Orange County Jail. He was taken before Judge Eugene Hoyt, of the 163rd District Court, who at the time was the judge for juvenile cases. He faced the juvenile charges of murder with malice aforethought.
Without emotion, the teen told the judge he understood the charges and his rights.
Laws concerning juveniles were much different than now. According to archives, the legal procedure in this case is “civil juvenile court proceeding under Texas Law. No criminal charges could be filed until he turned 17 years old.’ He was arraigned on charges of being a juvenile delinquent which was the only way authorities could keep him in custody.
According to archives, neighbors described the high school sophomore as a quiet, studious boy. Ronnie was also said to be a “loner”and an avid hunter. Relatives said he showed some type of affection to those he has murdered. In addition, Debi Mayberry told investigators, no harsh words were exchanged on the night of the murders.
Investigators worked on the case to determine why Ronnie Ozio had committed the murders. They finally determined the murders were done to impress Debi Mayberry. The “skinny, shaggy-haired” teen was quiet in school. But, he had written papers at school which portrayed a boy named “Randy” who bemoaned his unattractiveness and slight stature. In his writings, he said “Randy” resolved to do something about his physique. Another paper he wrote was of the same story and the main character, Randy, still had not won over the girl.
Local authorities worked to find a solution for what they thought was best for Ronnie Ozio. His attorney, John Morris, worked to get Ronnie the proper psychiatric care.
The sheriff at the time, Chester Holts, told reporters he had no intention of ever charging the teen with murder after he turned 17 years old.
A recent search for Ronnie Ozio revealed he did not serve time in prison on this charge or any other. It is also believed he changed his name upon his release from the psychiatric hospital. Wherever Ronnie Ozio is located, he is now 59 years old.
The Sussex Manor apartments, located on what was once called the MacArthur Circle, were said to be the best luxury apartments in the area. They were also the scene of one of the most horrific murder scenes in Orange in 1967.