The border patrol serial killer: South Texas Crime Stories

Juan David Ortiz targeted sex workers along the U.S. Mexico border where he worked as a border patrol agent.

South Texas Crime Stories: Border Patrol Serial Killer (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

LAREDO – He was the serial killer no one expected; a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“I believe Ortiz targeted all victims due to their profession and being vulnerable,” a law enforcement official said at a 2018 press conference.

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His crimes targeted people in a marginalized community, using his authority to gain trust and evade suspicion.

“In addition, all of the victims were defenseless and at one point, Ortiz was able to gain their trust and then viciously shot them,” investigators said.

In September of 2018, a monster was on the loose in Laredo, someone who nobody expected; a border patrol agent named Juan David Ortiz.

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Melissa Ramirez

29-year-old Melissa Ramirez was working as a sex worker in Laredo.

According to court records, she was picked up by Ortiz and taken out of the city.

Ramirez had Ortiz pull off to the side of the road so she could use the restroom, that’s when he turned.

Ortiz shot Ramirez in the back of the head several times and left her there, police said. A rancher founder her lying there in the dirt.

Ramirez’s death was investigated by several agencies including the Texas Rangers, but no arrests were immediately made.

10 days later, another victim.

Claudia Anne Luera

A trucker was driving and saw 42-year-old Claudine Anne Luera hurt badly on the side of the road, she was taken to the hospital where she later died.

Luera was also a known sex worker who was picked up by Ortiz.

Court documents show Ortiz pulled over and shot Luera multiple times in the head.

His deadly pattern was forming and his time between victims was shortening.

Just a day later, another sex worker was picked up by Ortiz.

Erika Pena

In an affidavit, Erika Pena said Ortiz started to act weird whenever she brought up Ramirez and it made her nervous.

Pena threw up in Ortiz’s front yard and he started to take her to a gas station.

During the ride, Pena brought up Ramirez again. Ortiz pulled out a handgun and pointed it at her.

She says she screamed for help and Ortiz grabbed her shirt, ripping it off of her as she tried to get out of his truck.

Pena ran to a DPS trooper pumping gas screaming that a man was trying to kill her, she said it was a border patrol agent named David.

Her escape was a break in the case, police finally had their suspect.

Investigators raced to Ortiz’s home, they didn’t find him but they did find a stash of weapons.

Guiselda Hernandez and Janelle Ortiz

Just one day later, Ortiz was spotted at a gas station by a DPS trooper, he took off and went to a hotel parking garage where he surrendered after an hour.

Once inside the interrogation room, Ortiz said he had killed two more people right after Pena escaped.

Those victims have been identified as 35-year-old Guiselda Hernandez and 28-year-old Janelle Ortiz, a transwoman.

Ortiz explained he took both women to an area off of I-35, north of Laredo, and shot them.

Upcoming trial

He is charged with capital murder and aggravated assault for the murders of four women and the attack on a fifth.

He’s currently being held on a $2.5 million bond and is being kept on suicide watch.

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

He has a trial coming up, he’s being represented by attorneys Joel Perez and Raymond Fuchs, who also defended Otis McKane.

Ortiz’s background

Juan David Ortiz grew up in Texas and enlisted in the Navy on July 5th, 2001, right after his 18th birthday. He was a combat medic and served in the Navy for about eight years.

Ortiz was accepted into the SAPD academy but ended up turning it down to begin work for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

According to a Texas Monthly article, his first attorney Joey Tellez said the VA had diagnosed Ortiz with PTSD. He claimed the drugs they prescribed to Ortiz “messed him up.”

According to the Urban Justice Center, sex workers are vulnerable to sexual violence, especially sex workers of color, migrants, and transgender.

They also say there are limited options to report violence, most are reluctant to go to the police.

The group states that sex workers face a 45% to 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence on the job.

December 17th is recognized as an international day to end violence against sex workers.

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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.

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.