A U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas has been indicted on capital murder charges and could receive the death penalty after authorities say he confessed to four killings.
Media outlets reported Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz announced in a press conference Wednesday that a grand jury indicted 35-year-old Juan David Ortiz on one count of capital murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint and evading arrest. Ortiz was a 10-year Border Patrol veteran and was based in Laredo, a city about 150 miles southwest of San Antonio.
The Laredo Morning Times reported that Ortiz is accused of slaying Melissa Ramirez, 29, on Sept. 3; Claudine Ann Luera, 42, on Sept. 13; and Guiselda Alicia Hernández, 35, and Nikki Enriquez, 28, around Sept. 14. According to the indictment, Ramirez, Luera and Enriquez, the latter of whom was a transgender woman, were each shot in the head. The indictment says Hernández was shot in the neck and struck in the head with an unknown object.
The four victims were alleged sex workers. Alaniz said Ortiz told investigators that his intent was to “clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting this community of individuals who he perceived to be disposable."
According to arrest affidavits, Ortiz would pick the women up in Laredo, drive them outside city limits and shoot them. The Laredo Morning Times reported Ortiz was caught Sept. 14 when a woman escaped his car at a gas station and alerted a state trooper. The woman told authorities Ortiz had pointed a gun at her.
The Washington Post reported Alaniz outlined why his office chose to seek the death penalty for Ortiz.
"The horrific nature of the murders. His complete disregard for human life. His vigilante mentality. He violated his oath to his country and his agency that he swore to protect,” Alaniz said. “We also believe that there are no mitigating circumstances in his life where it is justified for life without parole.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Carlos Diaz said Ortiz has been suspended without pay since his arrest. On Wednesday, the agency did not respond to a request from the Laredo Morning Times for an update on his employment status.