Juan David Ortiz, a 10-year intelligence agent with the United States Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), has been charged with the murders of four women in Laredo, Texas, and is being called a “serial killer” by law enforcement. Ortiz was arrested by the Webb County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday at approximately 2 a.m., hours after another female victim, Erika Pena, escaped capture and provided a description to police. According to the Sheriff’s Department, Ortiz has confessed to all four murders, two of which allegedly occurred in the hours between Pena’s escape and Ortiz’s arrest. All of the victims, including the woman who survived, worked as prostitutes.
“Evidence points to him having knowledge and contacts within the [sex worker] community,” Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said. “He was profiling certain kinds of victims.”
All of the women were shot in the head, execution-style. Melissa Ramirez, 29, was found murdered on September 3rd, while Claudine Luera, 42, was barely alive when she was discovered on September 10th, and later died at the hospital. The two victims who were killed between September 14th and 15th have not been identified, but their bodies were recovered based on information Ortiz provided to investigators.
“While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not and will not be tolerated,” the Border Patrol said in a statement. “Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends.”
The murders of Ramirez and Luera had put Laredo’s close-knit community of sex workers on high alert, and Jane Doe told investigators that she became uneasy in Ortiz’s company after he reacted strangely when she brought up Ramirez, who had been a friend of hers. According to Ortiz’s account, shortly before he shot Luera, she accused him of being the last person to see Ramirez alive.
Shortly before his arrest, according to the Washington Post, Ortiz left cryptic messages for his family on his Facebook page, including one which reads, “To my wife and kids, I love u,” and “Doc Ortiz checks out. Farewell.”
“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” Alaniz said to reporters on Saturday. “It meets the qualifications or definition of being a serial killer – in this case we have four people murdered.”
Ortiz has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of unlawful restraint and is being held on $2.5 million bond.