Following hearing recordings in which he admitted he wanted to “clean up the streets” of his town, a former Border Patrol agent was convicted of capital murder Wednesday in the 2018 deaths of four sex workers.
During his arrest, Juan David Ortiz, 39, a Border Patrol intelligence supervisor, was found guilty of killing Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Anne Luera, 42, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35, and Janelle Ortiz, 28. In September 2018, their bodies were discovered along a road outside Laredo.
Since prosecutors did not seek the death penalty, he received an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.
A lengthy taped interview with investigators was played during Ortiz’ trial, which began last week.
Investigators learned that Ortiz used to be a customer of many of the women, but also thought that sex workers were “trash” and “so filthy.” He stated that as he drove through an area in Laredo that was popular with the women, “the monster would come out.”
Gracie Perez, Ramirez’ sister-in-law, said she was a loving, kind, funny person, and her death has broken her children’s hearts.
Perez told Ortiz, “Do you know how much pain you have caused this family? “I’m torn apart knowing that I won’t be able to see her except in the cemetery.”
According to defense attorneys, it should not be considered because Ortiz was improperly induced to make a confession. Ortiz’s confession, the prosecutor said, was not only legal, but it was provided by a senior law enforcement official who was not having a mental breakdown.
According to Joel Perez, the defense attorney for Ortiz, a Navy veteran who served in Iraq, Ortiz suffered from PTSD, insomnia, nightmares, headaches, and had been drinking before the murders.
In her testimony, Erika Pena, 31, testified that Ortiz picked her up during the evening of Sept. 14, 2018. She got a bad feeling when he allegedly said he was the “next to last person” to have sex with Ramirez.
Ortiz told Pena he was worried investigators would find his DNA on Ramirez’s body, according to Pena’s testimony. The woman told the jury, “I thought he might have been doing the murdering,” according to the AP.
When Ortiz pointed a gun at Pena at the gas station, she ran straight for a state trooper pumping gas. Ortiz then fled.
After authorities tracked him to a hotel parking garage early on Sept. 15, 2018, he was arrested.
As Capt. Federico Calderon testified, officers who arrested Ortiz were aware of the slayings of Ramirez and Luera. While pursuing Ortiz before his arrest, they found a third body, which was later identified as Cantu’s. Calderon learned Janelle Ortiz had also died when Ortiz confessed.
Ramirez, Luera, and Janelle Ortiz were all fatally shot; Cantu suffered blunt force trauma to the head after being shot in the neck. According to Webb County Medical Examiner Corinne Stern.
Ballistics experts testified that the bullets found at the crime scenes matched the weapon in Ortiz’s pickup, which came from the same gun.
Ortiz military service included nearly eight years in the U.S. Navy and a three-year detachment with the Marines.