3 years after crimes, border serial killer suspect still awaits trial

Timeline: Everything you need to know about the Juan David Ortiz case

LAREDO, Texas – It has been three years since a former Border Patrol agent is suspected of going on a killing spree in Laredo during a two-week span.

Juan David Ortiz is now facing capital murder and aggravated assault charges for the murders of four women and an attack on a fifth woman, who was able to escape.

Here’s a look back at this case from court records along with the latest information about when Ortiz could possibly go to trial.

Sept. 3, 2018

The Webb County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher received a call from a rancher who found a woman lying on the side of a dirt road about 24 miles north of Laredo.

That woman was later identified as 29-year-old Melissa Ramirez. She had been shot several times at point-blank range. Evidence at the scene collected included .40-caliber bullet casings.

Several agencies were involved in the investigation including the Texas Rangers.

For ten days there were no huge leads on the case, but then another victim was found.

Sept. 13, 2018

A truck driver found a 42-year-old woman near a dirt road two miles from where Ramirez was found.

The woman was still alive but she later died at the hospital.

She was identified as Claudine Luera. She also had been shot and a .40-caliber bullet casing was found at the scene.

Police now had two unsolved murders and no suspect. All they knew was that both women were known prostitutes that could be found along San Bernardo Ave. in Laredo.

Sept. 14, 2018

A DPS trooper was pumping gas in his vehicle when a shirtless woman ran to him screaming that a man was trying to killer her.

Erika Peña’s escape was the big break in the case. She told police that a Border Patrol agent named David picked her up, took her to her home and when she started talking about the murder of her friend Melissa Ramirez his demeanor changed.

Peña told police that while he was taking her to get some food at a gas station she brought up Ramirez’s name again and that is when the man pulled a gun on her. She jumped out of his truck and the man ripped her shirt off while trying to grab her.

Police now had a suspect.

When investigators entered Ortiz’s home, he wasn’t there but they found an arsenal of weapons. The search began for Ortiz.

Sept. 15, 2018

A day later, Ortiz was spotted at a gas station by a DPS trooper but he fled the scene and went into a hotel parking garage. After about an hour, he surrendered.

During his interrogation, Ortiz revealed he had killed two more people right after Peña escaped. Those victims were identified as 35-year-old Guiselda Hernandez and 28-year-old transwoman Janelle Ortiz.

He mentioned he took both women to an area off I-35 north of Laredo and shot them.

Ortiz told police he was trying to get rid of all the prostitutes as a way to clean up the streets of Laredo.

According to a Texas Monthly article, Ortiz’s first appointed attorney Joey Tellez said that the VA had recently diagnosed him with PTSD and the drugs prescribed to him had “messed him up.”

The Trial

Two familiar San Antonio attorneys now represent Ortiz. Joel Perez and Raymond Fuchs, who recently defended Otis McKane are also taking on this high-profile case.

Ortiz has since pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charges. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

A status hearing is scheduled for Thursday and a trial date could be scheduled for March 2022.


About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Roslyn Jimenez is a news producer at KSAT. Before joining the team, she was a producer and video editor at KIII-TV and a radio intern in Corpus Christi. She graduated from Del Mar College with an Associate's degree in political science and liberal arts. Roslyn is family-oriented and loves spending time with her fiancé and chihuahua Paco.

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