U.S. Border Patrol Agent Indicted in Shooting Deaths of Four Women in Texas; Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty

Juan David Ortiz was indicted on a capital murder charge Wednesday. He is suspected in the killings of four women and the kidnapping of a fifth in rural Texas, Webb County. Prosecutors seek the death penalty. Ortiz is being held on a $2.5 million bond. Credt: Webb County, Texas

If a frightened woman had not been able to escape the clutches of a threatening, gun-brandishing border agent, and report the incident to a nearby Texas state trooper, officers may not have apprehended Juan David Ortiz.

Ortiz, a U.S. Border Agent supervisor, was indicted Wednesday on capital murder charges in the deaths of four women in rural Webb County, Texas. Prosecutors seek the death penalty against him after a grand jury returned the indictment, reported NBC News.

Webb County District Attorney Isidro R. Alaniz said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that Ortiz targeted women who worked as sex workers or who were involved in drugs.

Webb said the capital murder charges were upgraded due to the "horrific nature of the murders, his complete disregard for human life, his vigilante mentality," according to NBC News.

Ortiz, 35, is also accused of kidnapping the woman who escaped. He is being held on a $2.5 million bond.

A 10-year Border Patrol agent and a Navy veteran, Ortiz reportedly confessed to the killings. He seemingly lived a typical life in the suburbs with a wife and two children.

Police identified the victims as Melissa Ramirez, 29, killed on Sept. 3; Claudine Ann Luera, 42, killed on Sept. 6; Guiselda Alicia Hernandez, 35; and Janelle Ortiz, 28, a transgender woman whose birth name was Humberto Ortiz. Police say they believe the Hernandez and Janelle were killed around Sept. 14.

The woman who escaped was friends with Ramirez – and told authorities she suspected Ortiz.

The victims were killed or left for dead in rural parts of Webb County, bordering the Rio Grande, The Washington Post reported. At least two of the victims were U.S. citizens.

Within two weeks in September, Ortiz allegedly picked up victims near San Bernardo Avenue in Laredo, Texas before shooting and killing them.

Ortiz's relationship with the women is unclear, but Alaniz said two or three victims said they were familiar with him.

NBC News and The Washington Post reported that Ortiz was arrested after the unnamed woman he allegedly tried to kidnap escaped from his truck and found help from police in September. Allegedly, Ortiz pulled a gun on the unnamed woman.

Following her escape, the woman told police where Ortiz lived. After fleeing from officers, Ortiz hid in a hotel parking lot, then he was arrested, according to prosecutors' affidavit.

The grand jury upgraded the indictment to only one capital murder charge instead of four separate murder charges.

Alaniz said a person "commits capital murder if the person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of more than one individual during different criminal transactions but pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct."

Previously, Ortiz had faced four counts of murder, one count of unlawful restraint and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Furthermore, Alaniz said Ortiz preyed on the weak, the sick and the vulnerable while violating his oath to his country and agency.

"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.

Police said Oritz possessed several weapons in his home and sought a confrontation with police.

The investigation continues.