LAREDO, Texas – A Border Patrol agent has been accused of committing four homicides. He was arrested early Saturday after reportedly killing four women and kidnapping a fifth. The victims are believed to have been prostitutes, officials said.
Juan David Ortiz, an Intel Unit supervisor for the Border Patrol, was found about 2 a.m. when state troopers tracked him to a hotel parking lot in the border city of Laredo, Texas. He was found hiding in a truck, Fox News reported.
Officials say they were alerted about the 35-year-old Ortiz after a fifth woman allegedly escaped from him and notified authorities.
According to the Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Ortiz has been a Border Patrol agent for the past 10 years.
Authorities discover 2 bodies overnight bringing the weeks total up to 4. They are investigating a person of interest at this point. We will have more information hopefully in the coming hours. @KGNSnews #laredo pic.twitter.com/SEkireJcVy
— Harry Sullivan (@SullyKGNS) September 15, 2018
— Harry Sullivan (@SullyKGNS) September 16, 2018
Despite maintaining investigative details confidential surrounding the killings, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said investigators have “very strong evidence” that Ortiz is responsible for the deaths of the four women. Moreover, Cuellar said investigators believe he acted alone.
Isidro Alaniz, Webb County district attorney, said the evidence suggests that “the manner in which they were killed is similar.” Furthermore, the DA said authorities are still trying to pinpoint a motive for the killings, but that all of the women worked as prostitutes.
“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” he said.
All four victims were found in the same general rural area near U.S. 83 in the northwest part of Webb County. All four were shot in the head; one was a transgender woman, reported mysanantonio.com.
The first victim was Melissa Ramirez, 29, the mother of two. Her body was found Sept. 4 in the 300 block of Jefferies Road near the intersection of Texas 255, also known as Camino Colombia Road. An affidavit stated that Ortiz said he killed her Sept. 3.
The second victim was Claudine Anne Luera, 42.
A mother of five, she was found barely alive at about 7 a.m. Thursday near mile marker 436 of Texas 255, about a half-mile east of U.S. 83. She died at a hospital later that day.
Friday, the affidavit stated, Ortiz picked up Erika Peña.
When they stopped at a gas station, she began talking about Ramirez. Ortiz told investigators that he pulled out a pistol and pointed it at her. They struggled inside his truck and she ran out, making it to another gas station where she found a Department of Public Safety trooper and asked for help.
After Ortiz was in custody, he gave investigators a statement detailing the shootings, the affidavit said.
After Peña ran away, Ortiz told investigators, he picked up two people whose names weren’t released — the affidavit identified them as “Jane Doe” and “John Doe.” He killed both.
He picked up Jane Doe on San Bernardo Avenue, drove out of the city limits and told her to get out of the car at the Webb County Interchange Overpass, at mile marker 20 on I-35. He shot her multiple times in the head and left her body there, the affidavit stated.
Ortiz then picked up John Doe, also on San Bernardo Avenue, and again left the city limits, stopping near mile marker 15 on I-35. The affidavit said he told the man to get out of his truck, shot him once in the back of his head, and left his body behind the gravel pits at the mile marker.
Jane Doe’s body was found Friday night; the body of John Doe was found after Ortiz told officers where to look, the affidavit said.
In a statement, Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner for public affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said his agency is fully cooperating with all investigators.
“Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends. 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,” Meehan said.
Ramirez’s mother, Maria Cristina Benavides, said her daughter, a native Laredoan, had been caught up in drugs. Benavides had custody of her daughter’s two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, at the family home in Rio Bravo, and her daughter stayed with them several days a week.
“She was always smiling,” Benavides said. “She loved her children and when she was here, she took good care of them.”
Luera’s sister, Colette Mireles, said she also had been addicted to drugs and had been living on the streets for the past five years. Family members had custody of her five children.
“She was a happy-go-lucky person growing up,” Mireles said, adding that her older sister had a “contagious laugh,” and always was free-spirited.
“Sadly, she was an addict,” Mireles said. “Her life took another turn.”
The district attorney’s office intends to charge Ortiz with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping.
Ortiz was booked at the Webb County Jail.