A U.S. Border Patrol agent has pleaded not guilty in the murders of four women, a killing spree prosecutors contend would’ve continued had a fifth victim not managed to escape.
Juan David Ortiz is accused of killing Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Luera, Guiselda Alicia Cantu and Janelle Ortiz during the first few weeks of September. The women, who prosecutors said worked as prostitutes, were each shot in the head and found dead on the side of rural roads in the border city of Laredo, Texas.
One of the victims died of blunt force trauma after she was shot, according to authorities.
Ortiz, a 10-year veteran of US Customs and Border Protection, was arrested earlier this year after a fifth woman fled from his car and found a state trooper fueling his cruiser at a nearby gas station. He reportedly to confessed to killings shortly after he was taken into custody.
The 35-year-old suspect on Thursday entered not guilty pleas a capital murder charge, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of unlawful restraint and one count of evading arrest of detention.
The mother of one the victims stood up and screamed at Ortiz after as he exited the Webb County courtroom.
Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz has previously said he will seek the death penalty should Ortiz be convicted on the capital murder charge.
In December, the prosecutor described him as a self-proclaimed vigilante who sought to “Clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting individuals he deemed to be disposable and that no one would care about. People he did not give value to.”
His first victim, according to authorities, was Ramirez, who he picked up on September 3. Days later he picked up Luera, who became suspicious when she realized Ortiz was the last person to see Ramirez alive. When she exited his car, the border agent allegedly shot her multiple times in the head.
The same night his third victim managed to escape, police said Ortiz kidnapped Cantu and killed her before picking up Janelle Ortiz and shooting her as well.
Alaniz said Ortiz told police he “was doing a service” in killing the woman and that he did not believe law enforcement had been doing enough to curb prostitution in Laredo.
He remains jailed on a $2.5 million bond.