A U.S. Border Patrol agent who testified to killing four sex workers told investigators he intended to “clean up the streets” of his Texas border hometown, a prosecutor said on Wednesday while announcing that a grand jury had indicted the man for capital murder.
Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz noted he will seek the death punisment for the September killings and that proof presented to the grand jury indicated Juan David Ortiz murdered the women “in a cold, callous and calculating way.”
Alaniz said at a news conference “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 Ortiz, 35, trust law enforcement didn’t do enough to contain prostitution, so he was “doing a service” by killing the women.
A suspect can be charged with capital murder if he is linked in over one killing in the same plot with an overall 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 horrid nature of the killings and Ortiz’s vigilante mindset were contributions in his decision to follow 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, delivers a clear danger to society, he said.
The Border Patrol intel overseer and Navy veteran appeared to be living a typical suburban life with his wife and two children when the killings took place. He was only arrested after one victim was able to escape him and asked a state trooper for help.
Alaniz said “By day, he was a family man. 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 somebody else — hunting the streets … for this community of people and arbitrarily deciding who he was going to kill next.”
Alaniz said Ortiz knew recognise some of the victims but he wouldn’t expantiate on the kind of relationship they had. Melissa Ramirez, 29, was slain on Sept. 3, and 42-year-old Claudine Luera was killed on Sept. 13.
According to court documents on Sept. 14, he picked up another woman, Erika Pena, who told investigators that Ortiz acted strangely when she brought up Ramirez’s killing and later pointed a gun at her while they were in his truck at a gas station. Pena said Ortiz grabbed her shirt as she tried to get out of the truck, but she pulled it off and ran, finding a state trooper who was refueling his vehicle.
Ortiz ran and, he later told investigators, he then carried 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 follow Ortiz to a hotel parking garage where he was arrested.
Alaniz continued “I believe that if Erika Pena would not have escaped that day that there would be more victims right now in this case,”.
Ortiz also was arraigned on 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.
Ortiz’s attorney did not instantly called back for comment on Wednesday.
The Border Patrol put Ortiz on indefinite, unpaid suspension after his arrest. On Wednesday, the agency did not answer to a request for an update on his employment status.