Serial Murder Trial of Border Patrol Agent Includes Video of Alleged Confession to Cops

Juan David Ortiz
Juan David Ortiz has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder.Webb County Sheriff's Office

Juan David Ortiz's lawyer claims his videotaped confession to four murders was coerced.

The murder trial of Juan David Ortiz, a former Border Patrol agent accused of being a serial killer, entered its second week after jurors heard what prosecutors called his videotaped confession.

Ortiz is charged with four counts of first-degree capital murder, aggravated assault and unlawful restraint for an alleged 12-day killing spree in which he "wanted to clean up the streets," he told investigators, according to the video played in court. That is why he killed four women and left them on the side of rural roads, according to prosecutors.

"I was like you know what these people, they're not good people so I convinced myself of that," Ortiz said in the video. 

Ortiz, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, was coerced into confessing, his lawyer claims.

The women were sex workers, many of whom struggled for years with drug addiction, their families said, and whose workplace was San Bernardo Avenue, a tightly packed thoroughfare of cheap motels, auto body shops, taco stands and convenience stores in the Texas border town of Laredo.

“I was continuing driving on San Bernardo, and then this is when the monster came out,” Ortiz said in the video played in court. 

All of the women knew each other; some were good friends.

The dead are: Guiselda Alicia Hernandez, 35; Claudine Anne Luera, 42; Melissa Ramirez, 29; and Nikki Enriquez, 28, a transgender woman.

During the trial, which began Nov. 28, relatives of the victims sat in court, at times becoming overcome with emotion as details emerged of their family members' deaths and autopsy findings were read aloud.

The courtroom also heard the testimony of Erika Pena, who told jurors Ortiz picked her up on Sept. 14, 2018 and took her to his house, while his wife and kids were out of town. He was acting strangely and while later riding in his truck, he pulled a gun and held it to her head, she testified.

“He pointed it right at my face,” Pena said. When she opened the passenger door to jump, he grabbed her shirt, but she was able to break free and run, wearing only her bra from the waist up, she said.

“Someway, somehow, I took off running without my shirt,” she testified. “I took off running, I snapped.”

She ran to a Texas trooper filling his cruiser at a gas station, she said. She begged for help, and as deputies searched for Ortiz for the next few hours, he killed two more women, authorities said.

On Monday, as Webb County Medical Examiner Dr. Corrine Stern described her autopsy findings, the family of Melissa Ramirez fought to retain their composure. The victim had been shot multiple times, Stern testified, and could only be identified by her fingerprints.

The trial was halted after a juror fainted during the graphic testimony accompanied by autopsy photos. The male juror, who was escorted out, was examined by Stern, who found him to be fine. Judge Oscar Hale dismissed him for the remainder of the trial and replaced him with an alternate juror.

Ortiz faces life in prison if convicted. Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz had initially planned to seek the death penalty, but later said the victims' families had requested he not pursue execution, saying it was an easy way out for the man accused of killing their relatives.

The victims, Alaniz told jurors, were mothers, daughters and sisters with families who loved them.

“The case is about a man who betrayed his badge,” Alaniz told the jury. “He betrayed his country. He betrayed his family. He betrayed his community, for his own selfish needs.”

Relatives have kept vigil since the killings, giving media interviews and meeting with prosecutors to keep attention on the case and to show that the dead women are remembered and mourned. They have also attended myriad pre-trial hearings, bearing photos of the victims and sharing stories of their losses.

Because of intense local media coverage of the killings in Laredo, the trial was moved nearly 160 miles north to San Antonio in Bexar County, in an effort to find impartial jurors.

Ortiz, a Navy veteran, was a Border Patrol intelligence supervisor at the time of his arrest. His attorney told the court Ortiz suffered from depression and anxiety and had told investigators what they wanted to hear during questioning that lasted more than nine hours.

“This is a defeated man,” defense lawyer Joel Perez told jurors.

In a 2019 interview with Inside Edition Digital, the family of victim Claudine Luera spoke of the chasm of grief bored by her killing, and of the indignity of how the women's bodies were left in plain sight on the side of highways.

"These were mothers, they were daughters, they were sisters," said sister Colette Miereles.

Luera, 42, was a mother of five whose battle with heroin was a demon she could not tame.

"They didn't deserve this," Miereles said.

Angelica Perez, another sister, remembered the anguish of having to break the horrible news to her nieces and nephews.

"We had to tell them, 'Your mother's gone.' It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, because we had to listen to their screams," she said.

"He left her on the side of the road like she was trash."

Oritz's trial is expected to conclude this week.

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