Ex-Border Patrol agent convicted of killing 4 women in Texas : NPR
SAN ANTONIO — A former Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four prostitutes in 2018 was convicted Wednesday of murder, after a jury heard recordings of him telling investigators that he’s trying to “clean up the streets” in his native South Texas.
Juan David Ortiz, 39, automatically received a life sentence without the possibility of parole because prosecutors decided not to recommend the death penalty.
Ortiz, a Border Patrol intelligence supervisor at the time of his arrest, was charged with the murders of Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Anne Luera, 42, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35, and Janelle Ortiz, 28. Their bodies were found along the streets on the outskirts of Laredo in September 2018.
During the trial that began last week, jurors heard Ortiz’s confession in a lengthy taped interview with investigators.
Ortiz told investigators he used to be a client of most women, but he also showed disdain for prostitutes, calling them “trash” and “so dirty” and insisting decided he wanted to “clean up the streets”.
He said “the monster will appear” while driving along a stretch of road in Laredo frequented by women.
Following the verdict, family members of the victims confronted Ortiz to give their testimony. Ramirez’s sister-in-law, Gracie Perez, said she was “a lovely, kind and funny person.” She tells Ortiz that the hearts of Ramirez’s children are now broken.
“Do you know how much suffering you have caused this family?” Perez said. “My heart breaks knowing that I won’t be able to see her other than to visit her at the cemetery,” she said.
Defense attorneys said Ortiz was inappropriately incited to confess and that should not be considered. Defense attorney Joel Perez argued that Ortiz, a Navy veteran who was deployed to Iraq, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, nightmares and headaches, was given medication and had drinking that night.
Prosecutors told the jury that it was a legitimate confession provided by an educated senior law enforcement official who was not in a mental breakdown.
Erika Pena testified that Ortiz picked her up on the evening of September 14, 2018 and that she had a bad feeling when he told her he was the “last person” to have sex with Ramirez, who was found seen in the previous week. She testified that he told her he was worried investigators would find his DNA on his body.
“That made me think he might be the killer,” Pena, 31, told the jury.
Pena escaped from his truck at a gas station after he pointed a gun at her, and she ran straight to a state trooper refueling his car. Ortiz fled.
Authorities tracked Ortiz to a hotel garage at dawn on September 15, 2018 and he was arrested.
Captain Federico Calderon of the Webb County Sheriff’s Department testified that the officers who had arrested Ortiz knew of the murders of Ramirez and Luera, and while pursuing him after Pena’s escape learned that a third body – later identified as Cantu’s – was found. But Calderon says it wasn’t until Ortiz confessed that they learned Janelle Ortiz had been killed.
Webb County medical examiner Corinne Stern testified that Ramirez, Luera and Janelle Ortiz were fatally shot while Cantu, who was shot in the neck, died of severe head injuries.
The bullets collected from the crime scene came from the same gun and matched a weapon found in the pickup truck of Juan David Ortiz, a ballistics expert who testified.
Ortiz served in the United States Navy for nearly eight years, until 2009, holding various medical positions and serving three years in detachment with the Marines.