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Man originally accused of planning David Ortiz shooting found dead in Dominican Republic

The director of the National Police, General Ney Aldrin Bautista Almonte, showed the weapon that was used to shoot David Ortiz in 2019.Roberto Guzman/Associated Press

The long-running saga of the shooting of Red Sox legend David Ortiz in 2019 has taken several twists lately, with the arrest this week of a longtime fugitive and, in a particularly grim development, the suspicious death in January of a man originally named as the mastermind of the attack.

Víctor Hugo Gómez was found dead in a town outside the capital, Santo Domingo, according to local authorities, after disappearing late last year. He is the second figure in the case to have died under suspicious circumstances.

Authorities had accused him of planning the botched hit job that resulted in Ortiz being shot in the back while sitting at a Santo Domingo bar. Those charges were later dropped and Gómez was released from jail last March, although prosecutors were appealing that decision.


His body was found in a town north of Santo Domingo on Jan. 10. A defense attorney, Manuel Santos Paula, who represented two other figures in the Ortiz case, said Gómez was kidnapped and murdered, noting he had ties to the drug trade. A Dominican government official said Thursday that the cause of death was not yet known.

Ten other men have been sentenced to prison for their roles in the shooting.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Interpol, the international police agency, detained a 25-year-old Venezuelan, María Fernanda Villasmil Manzanilla, in Santo Domingo. In early court filings, prosecutors said she was seen on the night of the shooting in a car with men who were implicated in the attack. After she didn’t appear in court, prosecutors labeled her a “fugitive” and authorities attached a “red notice” to her name, identifying her as someone police should arrest.

She was released from custody on Thursday and faces no charges, according to the Dominican government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case.


Gómez was a central figure in the dizzying and often contradictory accounts of how and why Ortiz was shot. Dominican authorities claimed the shooting was a case of mistaken identity. Gómez, they said, had wanted his cousin killed. But the hit men he hired got mixed up and shot Ortiz instead, prosecutors alleged. (The cousin and Ortiz were at the same bar on June 9, 2019, the night of the shooting.)

But that theory of the case has been widely ridiculed, given that Ortiz is one of the most recognizable figures in the Dominican Republic.

In 2022, the Globe reported that a different drug trafficker, César “The Abuser” Peralta, actually orchestrated the hit. Gómez’s cousin and Ortiz were both targets, the Globe reported.

Dominican authorities have never implicated Peralta in the shooting and he has denied any involvement. In an unrelated case, Peralta has pleaded guilty in US court to drug trafficking and is awaiting sentencing.

Before the shooting, US prosecutors had accused Gómez of involvement in a drug ring in Texas. Gómez had denied any involvement in the Ortiz shooting.

His death had escaped wide notice outside the Dominican Republic until this week when Villasmil was detained.

She had been sought by authorities who wanted to question her about another man accused of helping to plan the shooting, according to the Dominican government official.

That man, Luis Alfredo Rivas Clase, more commonly known as “The Surgeon,” was murdered near Santo Domingo in 2021. He had been a fugitive since 2019.


In a brief telephone conversation Thursday before Villasmil was released, Ortiz’s longtime agent, Fernando Cuza, said they were working to learn more about the arrest from Dominican authorities.

“We haven’t even heard details from the police,” he said. “At this point, no comment. We will find out more details as it develops.”

The 2019 shooting seriously wounded Ortiz, a beloved figure in New England and his native Dominican Republic. In the months after the attack, he endured multiple surgeries, first in Santo Domingo and later at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Among those sentenced in December 2022 were Rolfi Ferreira Cruz, who shot Ortiz in the back from point-blank range, and a getaway driver, Eddy Féliz García. Both were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Another defendant, Alberto Miguel Rodríguez Mota, received a 20-year sentence for paying the hit men, according to the East Santo Domingo prosecutor’s office.

After the shooting, authorities quickly caught Ferreira, Féliz, and many of their accomplices. (Enraged onlookers aided police by pulling the men’s motorcycle to the ground as they tried to drive away.) But the information the Dominican government provided about why Ortiz was shot was less definitive.

The country’s then-attorney general put forward the mistaken identity theory, explaining that Ortiz and the cousin had happened to be dressed similarly. Many Dominicans found that explanation absurd.

Ortiz hired former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis to investigate the shooting, and Davis shared his findings with the Globe in March 2022. He concluded that Peralta had come to feel disrespected by Ortiz, prompting him to place a bounty on Ortiz’s head and sanction the hit squad that tried to kill him.


In a phone interview Thursday, Santos, an attorney who represented two men now serving jail sentences for their roles in the shooting, said Villasmil had not been directly involved with the botched hit.

“She was associated with the group,” Santos said in Spanish.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Mike Damiano can be reached at mike.damiano@globe.com. John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe.