Border Patrol agent Juan David Ortiz has been indicted for capital murder for the killings of four women in and around Laredo, Texas. Ortiz confessed to the four murders when he was arrested in September, after one woman escaped and informed authorities that he had pointed a gun at her. Webb County District Attorney District Attorney Isidro Alaniz announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the state of Texas intends to seek the death penalty.
All five of the women Ortiz abducted, including the woman who escaped, were sex workers, and Ortiz reportedly considered himself a “vigilante” — authorities, on the other hand, called him a serial killer. Alaniz said at the press conference that Ortiz 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.”
The case was presented to a grand jury over the course of two hours Wednesday: How Ortiz picked up his first victim, Melissa Ramirez, on September 3rd, and drove her to a remote road before shooting her twice in the head. He killed his second victim, Claudine Ann Luera, the same way 10 days later, after she told Ortiz she knew he was the last person seen with Ramirez. One day after that, he picked up Erica Peña, who also mentioned Ramirez before he pointed his gun at her. She jumped out of his moving truck and ran to a gas station, where she found a state trooper and told him what had happened, putting authorities on Ortiz’s trail. Before they could apprehend him, however, he killed his final two victims, Guiselda Alicia Hernandez, and Janelle Ortiz, that same night.
The grand jury returned indictments against Ortiz after 20 minutes.
In addition to the capital murder charge — a higher charge than the four counts of first degree murder he was originally charged with — Ortiz was also indicted on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; one count of unlawful restraint with reckless exposure to serious bodily injury; and evading arrest. Ortiz’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
“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.”
Alaniz also explained that the death penalty is warranted in this case for a number of reasons: “The horrific nature of the murders. His complete disregard for human life. His vigilante mentality. He violated his oath to his country and his agency that he swore to protect,” and a lack of mitigating circumstances. “The evidence that was presented to the grand jury this morning showed that he killed these four innocent individuals in a cold, callous and calculated way.”
Ortiz has been suspended without pay since his arrest, but the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not yet severed ties with him completely.