LAREDO (AP) — A U.S. Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four women and leaving their bodies on rural Texas roadsides was charged with capital murder, and a prosecutor said Wednesday that he intends to seek the death penalty.
Juan David Ortiz told investigators that he killed the women — whom police have identified as sex workers — because he wanted “to clean up the streets of Laredo,” and that he considered local law enforcement was doing an inadequate job, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said at a news conference.
Alaniz said prosecutors will seek the death penalty if Ortiz is found guilty.
Ortiz, 35, was initially charged with four counts of murder, as well as aggravated assault and unlawful restraint. He has been held in Webb County jail on a $2.5 million bond since his Sept. 15 arrest in the border town of Laredo.
Ortiz, a Border Patrol intel supervisor and Navy veteran, seemed to be living a typical suburban life with his wife and two children when the killings occurred. After the first slaying, he continued going to work as usual. He was eventually arrested after he pulled a gun on a woman who was able to escape and asked a state trooper for help.
Authorities have said Ortiz knew most of the victims and that he targeted them for their vulnerability. Melissa Ramirez, 29, was slain on Sept. 3, and 42-year-old Claudine Luera was killed on Sept. 13.
On Sept. 14, he picked up another woman, Erika Pena, who told investigators that Ortiz acted oddly when she brought up Ramirez’s slaying and later pointed a gun at her in a gas station, according to court documents. Pena said Ortiz grabbed her shirt as she tried to get out of his truck, but she pulled it off and ran, finding a state trooper who was refueling his vehicle.
Ortiz fled and, he later told investigators, he then picked up and killed his last two victims — 35-year-old Guiselda Alicia Cantu and 28-year-old Janelle Ortiz, a transgender woman whose birth name was Humberto Ortiz.
With Pena’s help, authorities were able to track Ortiz to a hotel parking garage where he was arrested.
According to court documents, Ortiz confessed to investigators that he had killed four people. All of the women killed had been shot, but one them died of blunt force trauma, Alaniz said Wednesday.