Samantha Welch and Celia Reyes in a Facebook photo. Additional images and a video below.
Samantha Welch and Celia Reyes in a Facebook photo. Additional images and a video below.
Facebook

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire

Update: Adam Ruiz, 23, has been found guilty of strangling his half-sister, Samantha Welch, and her girlfriend, Celia Reyes, and setting fire to their apartment in a cover-up attempt. The crime took place in Chicago circa October 2014, and Ruiz confessed to the crime in Denver the following July.

At the time of our original post, which has been incorporated into this update, we expressed surprise about the dearth of media attention paid to the horrific incident locally despite a significant Colorado connection.

But even most of the press in Chicago, which offered a great deal of coverage in 2014 and 2015, has largely ignored this month's verdict, with the notable exception of Homicide Watch, a Chicago Sun-Times project, whose slogan is "Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case." That's likely an indication of just how difficult it's become to keep up with the disturbing number of murders in Chicago, which became a frequent talking point of Donald Trump during his run for the presidency and after his election.

The Facebook pages of Welch and Reyes were transformed into memorials for the young women's affection for each other after their deaths, and they remain online at this writing. There's no doubt that photos of the couple, who were both eighteen, radiate love. In image after image, they're beaming.

Here's one example....

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (2)
Facebook

...and another:

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (3)
Facebook

Welch's page, listed under the name Sammie Rios, also includes a photo of her with Ruiz:

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (5)
Facebook

As for Ruiz's Facebook page, which is still online, too, his photo gallery sports numerous portraits of himself, including this one....

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (6)
Facebook

...and this one, featuring a Nightmare Before Christmas hat....

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (7)
Facebook

...as well as a shot in which he shows off tattoos with a Christian theme:

Adam Ruiz Guilty of Killing Half-Sister and Her Girlfriend, Setting Cover-Up Fire (8)
Facebook

An incredibly prolific Facebooker, Ruiz shared hundreds upon hundreds of items during 2014 and 2015 — usually funny memes and videos, with occasional topical items such as ones celebrating the nationwide legalization of gay marriage. But his timeline made no reference to the deaths of Welch and Reyes, and possible allusions afterward were vague.

Around six weeks later, for instance, he wrote, "Feeling so alone and yet I'm surrounded by friends and family."

Likewise, those who loved Welch and Reyes were bereft following the events of October 11, 2014.

At around 11 p.m. on that date, according to the Chicago Tribune, firefighters responded to a report of a fire in a three-flat building on the 4500 block of West Parker Avenue.

The scene of the crime.
The scene of the crime.

Inside the apartment, the bodies of Welch and Reyes were found. (They shared the space with a third roommate, who wasn't home on that night.) 

As ABC7 in Chicago reported at the time, investigators immediately deemed the blaze suspicious, owing in part to the presence of accelerants at the scene.

Subsequent evidence suggested that the fire had been deliberately set to cover up the homicides.

The Tribune revealed that the damage to Welch's remains was too severe for the coroner's office to settle on a specific cause of death. However, the lack of soot in her airway suggested that she had died before the fire started.

Reyes, for her part, was found to have died of strangulation.

Inside the apartment building after the fire.
Inside the apartment building after the fire.

Despite this evidence, the crime remained unsolved for months — a period during which Ruiz stayed in Illinois.

In June 2015, however, he returned to the Denver area. It was here, the Tribune reported, that he admitted to a pair of family friends that he had killed Welch and Reyes.

On June 29, he is said to have made the same confession to Denver police and was taken into custody.

The day before, June 28, Ruiz wrote his final Facebook posts. Amid a typical barrage of comic items (multiple Minions pics, for instance), two items stood out.

Mourners at a vigil after the fire.
Mourners at a vigil after the fire.

One reads, "Life is all about learning how to improve ourselves through the negative that happens in our life and how we can turn it into positive."

The second is the last post on the page. It states, simply, "Bye."

Ruiz was subsequently transferred from Denver to Chicago, where he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and aggravated arson prior to making his initial court appearances.

Among those present at one of the hearings was Adam's former foster mom (she said he struggled with assorted rage issues) and Fatima Ruiz, who was both Welch's best friend and Ruiz's adopted sister. "I'm sad because I lost the person closest to me," she told the Tribune. "I'm also filled with so much rage, and it makes it ten times worse that it's my brother."

Finally, on March 10, Ruiz's trial got under way, and on March 16, a jury returned two guilty verdicts for murder. The judge in the case has scheduled post-trial motions and sentencing for April 17.

Here's a look at Ruiz's booking photo, followed by ABC7's report from October 2014.

Adam Ruiz.
Adam Ruiz.
Chicago Police Department via the Chicago Tribune
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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