Angel Ortiz Jr. had been dead for a day. It took that long for the police to find his mother and tell her that her 22-year-old son had been killed in a car crash.
Ortiz was at the wheel of a Toyota Scion about 7 a.m. Thursday. He was headed north on Gray Highway when an SUV going the other way turned in front of him at Joycliff Road, about 5 miles north of Macon.
Ortiz died at the scene.
“In his car, we couldn’t find anything to locate addresses for next of kin,” Jones County sheriff’s Maj. Earl Humphries said Friday.
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Ortiz’s driver’s license bore a Norcross address where he no longer lived. His cellphone was crushed in the wreck and couldn’t be easily accessed.
Police and sheriff’s officials in Gwinnett County tracked down other possible addresses for Oritz and his family, but didn’t have any luck.
Humphries called the Georgia Department of Labor to find out who Ortiz worked for. Humphries had hoped Ortiz’s employer would know where his relatives lived.
“It was somewhere to start,” Humphries said. “We didn’t have anything else to go on.”
After nearly half an hour on the phone, Humphries said he spoke to someone who works in a branch of the labor office’s “integrity department.”
“I was told that they could help us,” Humphries said, “but there’d be a fee involved.”
He asked the woman on the phone if she was kidding.
She assured him she wasn't.
Humphries told her he was trying to find a dead man’s family.
There would still be a fee, the woman said.
“It just shocked me,” Humphries recalled. “I got a little irritated with the lady. They said that’s their policy. I said, ‘Never mind.’ ”
Georgia Department of Labor spokesman Sam Hall on Friday said the fee is required by federal law and requests by police have to be in writing.
“We don’t provide answers to anybody about ... confidential information on the telephone,” Hall said. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”
Jones sheriff's officials were undeterred.
It took a few hours, but the department's technology staff retrieved some numbers from Ortiz’s damaged phone, including one for the armored-truck company he worked for.
“By luck, it was just a number that popped up as his last message,” Humphries said.
The message was from someone asking why Ortiz, who lived in Warner Robins, hadn't shown up for work.
Friday morning, nearly 24 hours after the crash, officers went to his mother's house in Snellville and gave her the bad news.
“I’m just sad to say that policies and procedures have gotten the human element out of government,” Humphries said. “If that had been my child, I would have hoped that somebody would have helped.”