SAN ANTONIO: A former U. S Border Patrol agent who confessed to killing four sex workers in South Texas and told investigators he did it to “clean up the streets” of his border community has now started his capital murder trial.
Juan David Ortiz, 39, faces life in prison without parole if found guilty of capital murder because prosecutors are not requesting the death sentence.
A veteran of the Navy, Ortiz worked as the intel supervisor for the Border Patrol at the time of his arrest. Erica Pena fled from him on September 15, 2018, and she asked for help from a state trooper before Ortiz was arrested in Laredo.
For capital murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wrongful restrain, and avoiding arrest. Ortiz entered a not-guilty plea on Monday.
“You will see and you will hear, through his own words, how he took each woman to their last resting place, how he executed them. You will hear in his own words the indifference, the disrespect, the degradation that he has for these people,” Isidro Alaniz, the Webb County District Attorney told the jurors during an opening statement.
He also added that Ortiz called the women he killed “dirt” in Spanish and that he provided investigators with the location of one of his victim’s bodies during the confession.
Due to extensive media coverage, the defence requested that Ortiz’s trial be transferred from Webb County to San Antonio, in Bexar County.
Joel Perez, Ortiz’s attorney, said in his opening remarks to the jury that the detectives had made assumptions and that his client’s confession had been “coerced.” he claimed that after being questioned for more than eight hours, his client confessed because he was “broken” and “suicidal”.
Perez claimed that the veteran had sought help when he was experiencing nightmares and couldn’t sleep months prior and had been given “a bunch of psychotic pills.”
Perez referred to Ortiz as “a defeated man” and said that Ortiz has told the investigators that he’d had blackouts as well.
The first murder Ortiz committed was on September 3, 2018, a 29-year-old woman, Melissa Ramirez was killed. Later, on September 13, 2018, Claudine Luera, a 42-year-old was killed.
Pena was picked up by Ortiz on September 14, 2018, and Pena later told detectives that Ortiz acted strangely when she brought up Ramirez’s murder. Pena stated during her testimony on Monday that she fled from Ortiz’s truck after he pointed a gun at her and was crying when she came upon a state policeman who was refuelling his car.
Nobody knew who it was. Everyone, all the girls were watching their back,” Pena said.
Pena used the money she earned through prostitution to support her drug addiction. As one of Pena’s customers, Ortiz contributed to her continued drug use. Pena claimed to have known Ortiz for at least five months and considered him a friend.
Ortiz picked up his final two victims, Guiselda Alicia Cantu, 35, and Janelle Ortiz, 28, and escaped, according to what he eventually told authorities. Juan David Ortiz was eventually arrested after being tracked by authorities to a hotel parking lot.
He shot each of his victims in the head before dumping them on remote roads around Laredo. One person whom he shot later died from blunt force trauma.
Following his arrest, the Border Patrol placed Ortiz on an indefinite unpaid suspension. A Border Patrol representative said on Monday that the organisation doesn’t comment on “pending litigation” when asked for an update on the man’s work situation.
Ortiz was described by authorities as a rogue agent and a serial killer who preyed on some of society’s most vulnerable individuals.
Alaniz, Webb County District Attorney said: “it’s a vulnerable community, a community that is defenceless and that has little to no credibility.”
The affidavit states that Ortiz “gave a voluntary verbal confession” regarding the women’s murder.