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Man freed after wrongful conviction in double-murder is back behind bars

Josue Ortiz regained his freedom more than a year ago, vindicated of the double murder that kept him in prison for a decade.

His freedom was short-lived.

Ortiz, who wrongfully confessed to the murders and pleaded guilty, is back in custody, this time on an unrelated felony weapons charge.

Federal prosecutors say Ortiz, 34, was arrested Dec. 23 after buying a 12-gauge shotgun at a local sporting goods store and threatening to kill a neighbor.F

Ortiz, according to the complaint, was inside his Niagara Falls apartment when police arrived. He eventually surrendered the gun and turned himself in.

Ortiz was released from state prison in December 2014 after serving 10 years for the murders of Nelson and Miguel Camacho of Buffalo.

His wrongful conviction stemmed from a false confession in 2004, when he first claimed responsibility for the killings. He repeated those admissions when he pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Years later, an FBI task force reopened the murder investigation, and prosecutors eventually charged three other men – Brandon Jonas, Efrain “Cheko” Hidalgo and Misael Montalvo – with the two murders. Jonas and Hidalgo have admitted taking part in them.

At the time of his release, Ortiz’s lawyers said he suffered from mental illness. U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy ordered him detained this week on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His felony conviction stems from when he was a youth in Puerto Rico.

Ortiz’s arrest is the result of an investigation by the Niagara Falls Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.