On Wednesday, Juan David Ortiz, the Border Patrol agent accused of killing four women in September in Laredo, Texas was indicted on one count of capital murder, aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, and evading arrest.
After his arrest last fall, according to police, Ortiz confessed to killing Melissa Ramirez, 29; Claudine Ann Luera, 42; Griselda Alicia Hernandez, 35; and Janelle Ortiz (no relation), 28.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Webb County District Attorney Isidro R. Alaniz announced that the state of Texas is seeking the death penalty against Juan David Ortiz, who has been behind bars on a $2.5 million bond since his arrest. “We believe this case does qualify for the death penalty,” said Alanis, “based on its horrific nature, [Ortiz’s] vigilante attitude, his breach of trust to his country, to his badge, to his community, his disrespect for human life—all of that factors into my decision to pursue death.”
Though law enforcement initially charged Ortiz with four counts of murder, Alaniz explained that Ortiz is now being charged with only one count of capital murder, not four, because of Chapter 19 of the Texas Penal Code, which defines capital murder as when “the person murders more than one person [...] during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct.”
Based on his confession, authorities believe that Ortiz was specifically targeting sex workers. “The scheme in this case, from Ortiz’s own words, was to ‘clean up the streets of Laredo’ by targeting this community of individuals who he perceived to be disposable, that no one would miss, and that he did not give value to,” said Alaniz during the press conference.
The friends and family of his victims, however, have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones. Broadly spoke to Rose Ortiz ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance about the death of her sister, Janelle Ortiz, who was Juan David Ortiz’s last victim. “It hasn't hit me yet,” she said. “How can an innocent human being like my [sister] be killed just like that?”
"This has been very painful,” Melissa Ramirez’s mother Cristina Benavides told USA Today.
Alaniz anticipates that the court will establish a special council certified in handling capital murder cases before they announce a trial date.