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'Monsters Like You Don’t Even Deserve To Breathe': Ex-Border Patrol Agent Guilty Of Serial Slayings

Juan David Ortiz was found guilty of murdering four sex workers, whose bodies were found along rural roads in Laredo, Texas. Jurors saw a confession video where the defendant referred to the woman as "trash."

By Jax Miller
The Double Lives of Serial Killers

A former U.S. border patrol agent was found guilty of murdering four sex workers and injuring another.

Juan David Ortiz, 39, was convicted Wednesday on four counts of capital murder connected with a series of deadly shootings in September 2018, according to ABC San Antonio affiliate KSAT-TV. The former Border Patrol intel supervisor and Navy veteran became the prime suspect after a woman, who survived an attack, identified him as a man she believed may have been responsible for the Laredo-area slayings of four sex workers found on rural roads.

Bexar County jurors deliberated for more than five hours following a nearly two-week trial before returning a guilty verdict. Ortiz will receive an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Ortiz previously told investigators he wanted to “eradicate all the prostitutes,” including the ones he was suspected of killing: Melissa Ramirez, 29; Claudine Luera, 42, Griselda Cantu (sometimes referred to as Guiselda Hernandez Cantu); and Janelle Ortiz, 28; the latter of whom was a transgender woman.

Ortiz claimed he was “cleaning up the streets,” according to NBC Laredo affiliate KGNS-TV. Ortiz referred to women in the sex industry as “dirty” and as being “trash,” the Associated Press reported.

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Ortiz had admitted to prowling a stretch of Laredo’s San Bernardo Avenue – an area known for prostitution – in search of his victims, according to the Laredo outlet. He’d then shoot them “execution style” with his government-issued service weapon, prosecutors told the court.

Ortiz’s defense alleged his confession was false and had been coerced. Meanwhile, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said Wednesday that the taped nine-plus-hour interview was “the best evidence” they had, according to KSAT-TV.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Juan David Ortiz

“Mr. Ortiz was a serial killer then and is a serial killer now,” Alaniz said, according to the New York Times. “Cold, callous, calculating, just like that. It is terrifying to have the enemy within the ranks of law enforcement.”

Defense attorney Joel Perez told jurors in Bexar County (where the trial was held following a change of venue from Webb County) that Ortiz’s confessions were “improper inducement,” per KSAT-TV.

During closing arguments, Perez said his client gave his statements “involuntarily” and that “police officers have a lot of power, and we have to have checks and balances on them,” per the Times.

Perez also pointed to Ortiz’s military history, including his being deployed to Iraq, according to the San Antonio outlet.

“Is this guy a real serial killer?” Perez asked. “He didn’t have that capacity. You have to look at the guy in front of you. Broken, PTSD, nightmares, insomnia.”

Ortiz was arrested in the early morning of Sept. 15, 2018, just hours after he attacked sex worker Erika Peña while in his pickup truck. Peña, who served as a star witness in the trial, considered Ortiz a friend but said he “began to act weird” at the mention of Ortiz’s first victim, Melissa Ramirez.

Peña accused Ortiz of pulling a gun on her and ripping her shirt as she tried to exit the truck. Soon, Peña – who could have been Ortiz’s third victim – flagged down a state trooper at the gas station and alerted authorities to Ortiz, eventually bringing law enrichment to his Laredo residence.

Ortiz would be captured hours after the attack while hiding in a hotel parking lot. In the interim, he would kill his two final victims.

All four murder victims were shot, though Webb County Medical Examiner Corinne Stern testified that Cantu (who was shot in the neck) died of blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Associated Press.

Following Ortiz’s guilty verdict, loved ones presented their victim impact statements, according to KSAT-TV.

“Do you know how much pain you have caused his family?” said Melissa Ramirez’s sister-in-law, Gracie Perez. “I hate you for what you did, and I can never forgive you, nor do I think God will. You deserve to suffer in prison and go to Hell.”

"Monsters like you don’t even deserve to breathe,” she added, according to USA Today.

Ramirez’s Spanish-speaking mother, Maria Cristina Benavides, said Ortiz had “no right to take her life,” referring to her daughter as a “noble, sensitive person,” according to the New York Times.

Claudine Luera’s daughter also spoke at Ortiz, KSTA-TV reported.

“What you did to my mother, Claudine, is a horrible thing,” the woman said. “You will be long forgotten in our memories and locked up until you die.”

Prosecutors previously agreed to take the death penalty off the table after discussing the matter with the victims’ families and in hopes of expediting the trial, according to KGNS-TV.

It has yet to be seen whether Ortiz will appeal Wednesday’s decision.