Border Patrol Agent Who Confessed to Killing Four Women Is Charged With Capital Murder in Texas
LAREDO, TEXAS – December 6, 2018
A U.S. Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four prostitutes told investigators he wanted to “clean up the streets” of his Texas border hometown, a prosecutor said Wednesday while announcing that a grand jury had indicted the man for capital murder.
Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said he will seek the death penalty for the September slayings and that evidence presented to the grand jury showed Juan David Ortiz killed the women “in a cold, callous and calculating way.”
“The scheme in this case, from Ortiz’s own words, was to clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting this community of individuals who he perceived to be disposable, that no one would miss and that he did not give value to,” Alaniz said at a news conference.
Mr Ortiz, 35, was a Navy veteran who had worked as a supervisor for Customs and Border Protection for ten years.
He specialized in narcotics and human trafficking and was at one point in charge of patrolling Interstate 35, according to court documents.
He lived a typical suburban life with his wife and two children--a good father, an exemplary family man. He wanted his city to be better, cleaner, kinder. As Alaniz said, Ortiz believed law enforcement didn’t do enough to curb prostitution, so he was “doing a service” by killing the women.
He was arrested in September after one victim, Erika Pena, was able to escape him and asked a state trooper for help.
During questioning he confessed to not only attacking Erika Pena but also murdering Melissa Ramirez and three other women between September 3 and 15.
After Erika Pena escaped on the night of September 14, Ortiz went on to kill two more women in the five hours before his capture.
He told investigators he picked up an unknown woman and took her to Interstate 35 outside Laredo before shooting her several times in the head, according to the affidavit.
Ortiz then returned to the city and picked up a transgender woman before taking her to gravel pits near the same highway.
"The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence," said Isidro Alaniz.
A suspect can be charged with capital murder if he is suspected in more than one killing in the same scheme with an overarching motive, Alaniz said. Three of the women were shot to death, and the fourth was also shot but died of blunt force trauma.
Alaniz said the horrific nature of the killings and Ortiz’s vigilante mentality were factors in his decision to pursue the death penalty. Ortiz, who has been held on murder charges in the Webb County jail on a $2.5 million bond since his Sept. 15 arrest in Laredo, presents a clear danger to society, he said.
Ortiz also was indicted Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful restraint in the attack on Pena, and a charge of evading arrest or detention.
The Border Patrol placed Ortiz on indefinite, unpaid suspension after his arrest. The department did not respond on Wednesday to a request for information about the status of its employee.
Earlier this year another border patrol agent, Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles, 29, was accused of murdering his 27-year-old lover and their one-year-old child.
Two others agents in the Laredo sector were arrested in April. David Villarreal, 32, was accused of sexually assaulting a woman while Luis Enrique Aranda, 24, was alleged to have pawned his government-issued night vision equipment.
Customs and Border Protection must annually report to Congress all cases of reported sexual abuse by its employees, a requirement prompted by media reports of sexual assault allegations within the agency.
In its most recent report in 2016, the agency showed that from October 2014 to September 2015 there were 52 allegations of sexual abuse and sexual assault by Customs and Border Protection employees, including Border Patrol agents. Many of the allegations stemmed from on-duty cases involving people the employees had apprehended.