SAN ANTONIO (AP) – A former Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four prostitutes in 2018 was convicted yesterday of capital murder, after jurors heard recordings of him telling investigators he was trying to “clean up the streets” of his South Texas hometown.
Juan David Ortiz, 39, receives an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole because prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
Ortiz, a Border Patrol intel supervisor at the time of his arrest, was accused of killing Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Anne Luera, 42, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35, and Janelle Ortiz, 28. Their bodies were found along roads on the outskirts of Laredo in September 2018.
During the trial that began last week, jurors heard Ortiz’s confession during a lengthy taped interview with investigators.
Ortiz told investigators he had been a customer of most of the women, but he also expressed disdain for prostitutes, referring to them as “trash” and “so dirty” and insisting he wanted to “clean up the streets”.
Following the verdict, family members of the victims faced Ortiz to give their statements.
Ramirez’s sister-in-law Gracie Perez said she was “a loving, kind and funny person”. She told Ortiz the hearts of Ramirez’s children are now broken.
Defence attorneys said Ortiz was improperly induced to make the confession and that it should not be considered.
Defence attorney Joel Perez argued that Ortiz, a Navy veteran who had been deployed to Iraq, was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, had been suffering from insomnia, nightmares and headaches, and was taking medication that night.
Prosecutors told jurors it was a legal confession provided by an educated senior law enforcement official who was not having a mental breakdown.
Webb County Medical Examiner Corinne Stern testified that Ramirez, Luera and Janelle Ortiz were fatally shot while Cantu, who was shot in the neck, died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The bullets collected from the crime scenes came from the same gun, and matched the weapon found in Juan David Ortiz’s pickup, a ballistics expert testified.
Ortiz served in the United States Navy for nearly eight years, until 2009, holding a variety of medical posts and served a three-year detachment with the Marines.