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Fargo defendant stabbed Wisconsin man multiple times over upsetting comment, charges say

Phillip Dewey Bergquist tried to get away from the attack before he collapsed, court documents said. George Ortiz then slit Bergquist's throat and rolled him into the river, prosecutors alleged.

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George Ortiz appears via video at a preliminary hearing Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, in East Central District Court, Fargo, with Judge Nicholas W. Chase on charges in the killing of Phillip Dewey Bergquist.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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FARGO — A Fargo man stabbed a Wisconsin man multiple times near the Red River then slit the victim's throat as the victim tried to get away , court documents alleged.

But in an outburst that disrupted his own bond hearing, 29-year-old George Anthony Ortiz denied knowing why he was in jail after being charged with murder for the Oct. 29 death of 32-year-old Phillip Dewey Bergquist.

Phillip Dewey Bergquist
Phillip Dewey Bergquist.<br/>
Submitted photo / Paul Bergquist

Ortiz; Joseph Matthew Poitra, 38, no permanent address; and David Eduardo Reyneros Jr., 25, of Fargo, appeared Friday, Nov. 4, in Cass County District Court on charges for their alleged involvement in the fatal stabbing. The men remain in custody at the Cass County Jail and appeared via videoconferencing.

Court documents made public Friday afternoon reveal few details on the motive for the crime, but a criminal complaint gives a violent description of the stabbing.

According to court documents:

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Reyneros told police he, Ortiz and Poitra crossed paths with Bergquist around 4:50 p.m. Oct. 29 in downtown Fargo.

Ortiz, Reyneros, Poitra, Bergquist and an unnamed person eventually walked from downtown to a bench near the Red River. Reyneros believed Bergquist said something to Ortiz that made the latter "greatly upset."

As Ortiz, Reyneros, Poitra and Bergquist walked toward the river, Ortiz said, "You're going to see my true colors," according to Reyneros. They left the unnamed person behind.

Mugshots of three men who are standing against a gray wall.
From left: George Ortiz, Joseph Poitra and David Reyneros.
Cass County Jail photos

Once they sat on the embankment, Ortiz started stabbing Bergquist while Poitra held the victim, court documents alleged. Bergquist was able to get away but collapsed by the shore.

That's when Ortiz cut Bergquist's throat and rolled the man into the river, court documents said.

Bergquist's body was found Sunday, Oct. 30, near the Red River just north of Main Avenue in Fargo.

Reyneros lived with Ortiz at the time of the stabbing, the complaint said. Ortiz returned to his apartment shortly after Reyneros.

Ortiz then bleached his bloodied clothing and told Reyneros to dispose of them, court documents alleged. Reyneros put the clothes in a dumpster, but detectives recovered them, according to the complaint.

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Poitra, who faces an accomplice to murder charge, initially denied any involvement in the case, according to the complaint. Poitra told police he held Bergquist but said he did so to stop Ortiz.

Poitra and Ortiz face life in prison if convicted of their charges.

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Prosecutors say 32-year-old Phillip Bergquist had been stabbed multiple times, and then his body was tossed into the Red River.

Reyneros was charged with evidence tampering, which carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison.

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said all four men knew each other from previous interactions in downtown Fargo. He said it's unknown what comment Bergquist allegedly made to upset Ortiz.

Alcohol was involved, Younggren said in calling the death illogical.

Ortiz appeared from his jail cell and spoke to Judge Nick Chase through his cell slot. He denied signing any documents connected to the case, despite court records showing that he consented to appear via videoconferencing and applied for a public defender.

Chase attempted to hold a bond hearing for Ortiz on Friday, but the defendant continuously tried to talk over the judge before Ortiz was muted. He claimed his rights were violated and that he should be released from jail after being held for more than 48 hours without seeing charges.

"I don't even know what this is about," Ortiz said. "They have nothing against me."

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Ortiz waved and shouted at the camera multiple times while he was muted. At one point, he appeared to gesture his middle finger into the air.

Chase has signed a document that says there is enough probable cause to charge Ortiz with murder. Ortiz has seen the charging document, Jail Administrator Andrew Frobig told The Forum after the hearing.

"What was being referred to doesn't apply here," Younggren said of Ortiz's claims that his rights were violated.

The jail decided to have Ortiz appear from his cell out of anticipation that he would disrupt the hearing, Frobig said.

Chase postponed Ortiz's bond hearing until Monday. Until then, he will be held without bond, according to court documents.

Poitra was given a $500,000 cash-only bond. Reyneros is being held on $100,000 that can be paid with cash or a bond.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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