Former Border Patrol agent found guilty of capital murder for 2018 killing of 4 women in Texas
By Rebekah Riess, CNN
A former US Border Patrol agent charged with fatally shooting four women in and around the border city of Laredo, Texas, in 2018 was found guilty of capital murder Wednesday for their killings, according to the Webb and Zapata County District Attorney’s Office.
Juan David Ortiz was convicted by a Bexar County jury and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the office said.
Ortiz was arrested in September 2018 hours after another potential victim named Erika Peña escaped and reached a Texas Department of Public Safety officer. She led officers to his truck and he was later taken into custody, officials said.
In an interview with police, he confessed to killing four women — Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Luera, 42, Guiselda Cantu Hernandez, 35, and Janelle Ortiz, 28 — over the prior two weeks, including two women in the hours between when Peña escaped and when Ortiz was arrested, officials said.
At the time, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz described him as a self-proclaimed vigilante who wanted to “clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting individuals he deemed to be disposable and that no one would care about. People he did not give value to.”
A 10-year veteran of US Customs and Border Protection, Ortiz was indicted in December 2018 on the capital murder charge.
“Ortiz, by day, he was a family man,” Alaniz told reporters. “The evidence shows that he was a supervisor. That he would go about his daily activities like anybody here. He appeared normal by all accounts and circumstances. At the nighttime, he was someone else, hunting the streets of San Bernardo for this community of people and arbitrarily deciding who he was going to kill next.”
San Bernardo is a business district in downtown Laredo.
The trial lasted eight days and the jurors rendered a guilty verdict after four and a half hours of deliberation.
CNN has reached out to Ortiz’s court appointed attorneys for comment.
When police brought Ortiz in, they say he confessed to the four murders, including two after Peña’s escape.
His first victim, police say, was Ramirez. Ortiz told police he picked her up September 3 and drove her out to the edge of the city, where she exited his vehicle to urinate on the side of the road, the affidavit says. Ortiz shot her multiple times in the back of the head and drove away, according to police.
On September 13, Ortiz picked up another woman — Luera — and drove her outside of Laredo. After she became suspicious and accused Ortiz of being the last person seen with Ramirez, Luera got out of the vehicle, the affidavit says.
Ortiz shot her multiple times in the head and fled, police allege.
On September 15, after Peña escaped Ortiz, the Border Patrol agent picked up another woman initially identified as Jane Doe. He ordered her out of the car and shot her repeatedly in the head, the affidavit says. She was later identified as Cantu.
That same night, Ortiz picked up a transgender woman and drove her about five miles from where he killed Cantu, the affidavit says. Police identified the transgender woman as Ortiz.
He ordered her out of the car and shot her once in the back of the head, the affidavit says.
“The evidence that we have right now is that he committed these murders in a similar fashion, taking these individuals out to desolate areas, near or right outside the city limits, and executing them with a handgun,” Alaniz said.
Authorities said Ortiz preyed upon vulnerable victims in communities he disliked — people who struggled with drug or alcohol addiction or were involved in sex work.
“The suspect was hunting for his victims,” Alaniz said.
He got to know the people he targeted and met with them several times to gain their trust, according to Webb County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Federico Garza.
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CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Jamiel Lynch and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.