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By Daniella Silva
Prosecutors in Texas will seek the death penalty against a U.S. Border Patrol agent accused of killing four women after a grand jury returned a capital murder indictment on Wednesday.
The agent, Juan David Ortiz, is suspected in the killings of four women and the kidnapping of a fifth in rural Texas, Webb County District Attorney Isidro R. Alaniz said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Ortiz is being held on a $2.5 million bond.
The grand jury upgraded the charge against Ortiz, 35, who had faced four counts of murder, one count of unlawful restraint and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Ortiz, who had been with Border Patrol for 10 years and is Navy veteran, was arrested after a woman he allegedly tried to kidnap escaped from his pickup truck and sought help from police in September.
The woman’s story prompted an investigation that led authorities to believe Ortiz was responsible for four killings within the span of about two weeks.
Prosecutors say Ortiz has confessed to the killings.
The victims have been identified by authorities as Melissa Ramirez, 29, who police say was killed on Sept. 3; Claudine Ann Luera, 42, who police say was killed on Sept. 6; Guiselda Alicia Hernandez, 35; and Janelle Ortiz, 28, a transgender woman whose birth name was Humberto Ortiz. Police say they believe the last two victims were killed around Sept. 14.
Authorities said in September that Ortiz had an arsenal of weapons at this home and that he may have wanted to die in a confrontation with police.
“He had numerous, numerous weapons — he was loading up all these weapons thinking that DPS was going to confront him and he was looking at a confrontation. Thank God that didn’t happen,” Webb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Federico Garza said, referring to Texas’ law enforcement agency, the Department of Public Safety, at a news conference on Sept. 17.
Ortiz was spotted at a gas station by state troopers and confronted before fleeing to a nearby hotel and hiding under a pickup truck in the parking lot, Garza said.
“He was going to try to commit suicide by cop. He tried to use his phone to make it look like it was a weapon,” Garza said. “It didn’t happen. He was arrested without incident.”