South Texas DA will seek death penalty against Border Patrol agent accused of “serial killing spree”

The United States Border Patrol agent who authorities say went on a killing spree in September on the Texas-Mexico border will face the death penalty if convicted of capital murder, the Webb and Zapata County District Attorney’s office announced Tuesday.

Juan David Ortiz, an intelligence supervisor for the Border Patrol, was arrested in the pre-dawn hours Sept. 15 after local and state law enforcement say he allegedly murdered four Laredo-area sex workers, including one transgender woman. Another woman, who authorities said would have been his fifth victim, escaped and gave authorities information that helped lead to Ortiz’s arrest.

He was charged with four counts of murder, one count of unlawful restraint, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of evading arrest or detention. The grand jury ultimately indicted Ortiz on one count of capital murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint and evading arrest or detention. He was also indicted on one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of unlawful restraint with reckless exposure to serious bodily injury and evading arrest or detention. His bond has been set at $2.5 million.

Ortiz’s arrest shocked the border community after details of the agent’s actions were made public. Over the course of about two weeks and on separate occasions, Ortiz would pick up the women and drive them beyond the Laredo city limits. That’s when he’d pull over, tell the victims to get out of the vehicle and shoot them in the head, according to his arrest affidavit.

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Isidro Alaniz, the Webb and Zapata County district attorney, said at the time of Ortiz’s arrest that the alleged crimes should not be a stain on the entire U.S. Border Patrol.

“It’s super unfortunate and tragic,” Alaniz said in September. “It’s not a reflection of Border Patrol, they do a great job protecting our borders they’re super professional and the work they do is important.”

An arraignment hearing is pending, Alaniz’s office said.

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