Jurors hear ex-Border Patrol agent’s confession in killings

Dec 4, 2022, 1:49 AM | Updated: 3:51 pm

FILE - Capital murder defendant and former U.S. Border Patrol Juan David Ortiz looks around the cou...

FILE - Capital murder defendant and former U.S. Border Patrol Juan David Ortiz looks around the courtroom before the start of the first day of the trial before Webb County State District Court Judge Oscar J. Hale, on Nov. 28, 2022. Jurors in Ortiz's capital murder trial have heard him confess in a taped interview in early December 2022 to killing four sex workers in South Texas. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP, File)

(Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP, File)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jurors in the capital murder trial of a former U.S. Border Patrol agent have heard a taped interview in which he confesses to the 2018 killings of four sex workers in South Texas.

If convicted of capital murder, Juan David Ortiz, 39, faces life in prison without parole because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. The trial started on Nov. 28 and is set to continue on Monday.

Ortiz, a Navy veteran, was a Border Patrol intelligence supervisor at the time of his arrest in September 2018. Ortiz, who officials have said wasn’t on duty during the killings and wore civilian clothes, is accused of killing Melissa Ramirez, 29; Claudine Anne Luera, 42; Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35; and Janelle Ortiz, 28.

Each woman was shot in the head and left along roads on the outskirts of Laredo in September. One died of blunt force trauma after being shot.

Juan David Ortiz told detectives in the video played in court last week that as he drove along a stretch of road that the women frequented, “the monster would come out,” the San Antonio Express-News reported. He told investigators he wanted to “clean up the streets,” and referred to the women as “trash” and “so dirty.”

Ortiz’s attorney, Joel Perez, argued in opening statements that investigators had jumped to conclusions, and that his client’s confession was “coerced.” He said his client was “broken” and “suicidal” when he made the confession and told investigators he’d had blackouts. Perez said that Ortiz told the investigators that he was a war veteran who’d been experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to sleep and was having nightmares. Perez said Ortiz had been put on “a bunch of psychotic pills.”

The ex-agent’s arrest was set in motion when a woman, Erika Pena, escaped from him when he pointed a gun at her while they were in his truck at a gas station on Sept. 14, 2018. Pena, now 31, testified that Ortiz would give her money for drugs, drive her to buy them and then they would have sex.

Normally, she said, he was “nice, smart, funny, a normal guy,” but on Sept. 14, 2018, she got a bad feeling after he told her he was the “next to last person” to have sex with Ramirez, who was found slain the week earlier. She testified that he was worried investigators would find his DNA.

“It made me think that he was the one who might have been murdering,” Pena told the jury.

Luera had been fatally shot on Sept. 13, 2018.

After Pena escaped, Ortiz fled from the gas station but was later arrested when authorities tracked him to a hotel parking garage.

In the interview with investigators, Ortiz said that after Ramirez had injected the drugs he’s bought for her, she’d passed out and that “angered” him. He said that when she regained consciousness, she became belligerent. Ortiz said that when he stopped so that she could use the restroom, he shot her in the back of the head.

Ortiz told investigators that after picking up Luera and taking her to get “a fix,” he told her they should check out where Ramirez’s body was found. He said she “started freaking out.” She died at a hospital after being shot in the head.

Capt. Federico Calderon of the Webb County Sheriff’s Department testified that officers who arrested Ortiz knew about the slayings of Ramirez and Luera, and while chasing him after Pena’s escape learned that a third body — later identified as that of Cantu — had been found.

Calderon said it wasn’t until Ortiz’s confession that they learned about a fourth slain woman — later identified as Janelle Ortiz.

Calderon told jurors that the information about a fourth victim was “volunteered” by Ortiz and “surprised us completely.”

Both Janelle Ortiz and Cantu were killed in the hours before Juan David Ortiz’s arrest.

Ortiz said on the tape that he’d planned to kill himself that night and that Cantu told him: “Don’t do it. God loves you.” Then, he said, he shot her in the neck.

The trial is being held in San Antonio, in Bexar County, following a defense request to move the trial from Webb County due to extensive media coverage.

The Border Patrol placed Ortiz on indefinite, unpaid suspension after his arrest. When asked last week for an update on his current employment status, a Border Patrol official said the agency doesn’t comment on “pending litigation.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

16 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

2 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

3 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

3 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

5 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

5 days ago

Jurors hear ex-Border Patrol agent’s confession in killings