Trial of former Border Patrol agent accused of killing four women enters day 3

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 10:59 AM CST
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WEBB COUNTY, TX. (KGNS) - The trial for the former agent accused of killing four women entered day three.

On Wednesday, a sheriff captain who was one of the leaders in the investigation of the four women murdered back in 2018 was the first to testify during the trial.

Webb County Sheriff’s Office Captain Federico Calderon told jurors that at first, he thought they were only handling two death investigations.

In the end, Calderon’s team and DPS were tasked to investigate five crimes; four murders and one aggravated assault.

The jurors were told the timeline of the investigation, which included the dates the four victims were found.

Calderon believed Melissa Ramirez was killed Sept. 3, Claudine Anne Luera on Sept. 13, and Griselda Cantu, and Janelle Ortiz on Sept. 14, 2018.

Some of the evidence shown was drone video recorded by the Webb County Sheriff’s Office of the crime scenes and the proximity between all of them.

Calderon told jurors that through their investigation, Ortiz knew Melissa Ramirez, Janelle Ortiz and claimed to not know Griselda Cantu or Claudine Anne Luera.

Ortiz was taken to the sheriff’s office station located on U.S 59, right outside city limits, for the interrogation; Ortiz’ truck was towed to the substation.

Webb County District Attorney, Isidro Alaniz, questioned Calderon on the process of preparing to interrogate Ortiz, the layout of the room, and what happened moments before Calderon entered the room.

The interview lasted over nine hours with Ortiz allowed food and restroom breaks.

Calderon told jurors Ortiz was not given any guarantees or threatened either physically or verbally during the interrogation process.

A timeline of Ortiz’ arrest was outlined to jurors on what happened Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

At 12:07 a.m., an alert was sent out for Ortiz’s truck.

Then at 12:57 a.m., authorities located the truck at the Stripes located at the corner of San Bernardo and Jefferson by DPS Trooper Bradshaw and his partner.

Trooper Bradshaw and Trooper Obregon approached Ortiz outside the Stripes at 1:02 a.m.; a chase is ensued southbound toward the Ava Hotel located on 800 Garden St.

At 2:30 a.m., Ortiz is located behind the bed of a pickup truck on the top floor of the parking garage at the Ava Hotel.

Ortiz was secured inside a patrol unit at 2:39 a.m. which is when investigators transported him to the sheriff’s substation off Highway 59.

Investigators arrived at the substation at 2:48 a.m. and Ortiz is placed in an interview room.

DPS Ranger Salinas and Calderon entered the interview room at 3:21 a.m.

Calderon told jurors that Ortiz confessed and was advised of his rights.

Ortiz had refused to sign the DPS Texas Ranger Division warning of rights which included his right to remain silent, right to attorney or to terminate the interview at any time.

The methods on how the interview was recorded was discussed and shown to jurors.

Pictures of items left behind inside Ortiz’s truck were shown and if he knew Erika Pena.

Pena testified during day one of the trial; she claimed to have known Ortiz and escaped from him.

Jurors were shown video of Ortiz sitting in a room at the sheriff’s substation shortly after 2:50 a.m.

District Attorney Alaniz questioned Calderon about Ortiz’ health, Calderon stated Ortiz had mentioned his military background, PTSD, and employment with U.S. Border Patrol.

The video of Ortiz sitting alone was played by the jurors, with District Attorney Alaniz asking Calderon questions; one of them referring to who asked Ortiz about experiencing blackouts.

The video of the interrogation between Ortiz, Calderon and Salinas began.

At the beginning of the interview, Ortiz gave officers consent to go inside his home, description of his weapons and spoke about his wife.

Ortiz told the officers he had a great relationship with his wife, who was a nurse and claimed his wife in San Antonio was “perfect.”

He went on to say he came to Laredo after a promotion, talked about his work with Border Patrol that included surveillance and shutting down stash houses.

The conversation shifted to Ortiz’s military background and his experience with PTSD, including medicine he was prescribed.

Ortiz said going to the V.A. “(Expletive) my life and now I’m here”, the veterans office he said “messed” him up is based in Laredo, Texas.

He also attended therapy sessions and allegedly expressed concerns to the doctors about suicidal thoughts.

He alleges the increase of medication contributed to his mental state declining and before his arrest he claims he was offered another job promotion.

In February 2018, Ortiz visited the V.A. because his alcohol consumption was “out of hand” and alleged he had 40 doctors’ appointments between Feb. to Sept. of 2018.

In regard to his anger issues, Ortiz told the officers he never lashed out at his family or coworkers.

Ortiz was supposed to meet up with his wife in San Antonio to see a boxing match with friends before his arrest.

Also, before his capture, Ortiz had spoken to his wife and asked her to remain in San Antonio with their children.

The investigators discussed the weapons and vehicles Ortiz possessed.

Ortiz was visibly concerned about his family and what they found out.

The jurors saw and heard for themselves the moment Ortiz was asked about his blackouts.

Ortiz explained the moment two troopers confronted him outside the Stripes store on San Bernardo and when he fled.

The interrogation shifted to Ortiz and if he hunted, to which he said, he hunted hogs.

The officer then asked Ortiz, what happened earlier on the day of Sept. 14? Ortiz described he had called the city to fix a water leakage.

He said throughout the day, before his capture, he had been drinking.

The officer asked Ortiz if he had received any calls during the day, Ortiz said right before his capture when he was hiding inside the bed of a pickup truck, a coworker called him. He had asked his coworker to tell his wife to not arrive in Laredo.

Right before his arrest, Ortiz claimed he received a lot of calls from coworkers, back-to-back.

The interview shifted back to Erika Pena fleeing from a gas station to which Ortiz said he didn’t “recall” what the officers were referring to.

The judge announced a recess, trial to resume at 2:15 p.m.

The seventh witness, David Nenque Jr. a Webb County Sheriff’s office crime scene investigator was called to the stand after 2:30 p.m.

Nenque told jurors he collected evidence and was shown pictures of the crime scene.

He was put in charge of taking pictures of Claudine Anne Luera, who had passed away, at a Laredo hospital on Sept. 13.

Jurors were shown pictures of Luera deceased.

Nenque recovered evidence from the crime scene of Griselda Cantu and Erika Pena.

Images of Juan David Ortiz’ home and shell casings were put on display.

The eight witness, Ignacio Riojas Jr., was district manager for the Murphy USA gas station on International Blvd.

Riojas testified he provided a USB drive to investigators that contained the surveillance video of the gas station tied to the case.

After a short exchange, Webb County Sheriff’s Office Captain Federico Calderon was brought back to testify more about the interrogation footage.

During the video, Ortiz denied knowing Erika Pena and said the only Erika he knew was a girl from high school.

Ortiz claimed the only argument he had with his wife was solely about his drinking, especially when he would go out of town.

The investigators questioned Ortiz if he had visited Jefferies Road or another area by a toll road, they then questioned Ortiz about the bodies of the two women who had been found two weeks prior.

The two women were identified as Melissa Ramirez and Claudine Anne Luera.

Ortiz denied knowing anything about the deaths of Ramirez and Luera.

During the first two hours of the interrogation, Ortiz would chuckle at moments during the investigation especially when asked about his relationship with Erika Pena.

When asked if he experiences blackouts or nightmares, Ortiz claimed he did.

He claimed the night before his arrest, he had experienced a nightmare which caused his wife to worry.

The interrogation then shifted again; this time, an investigator told Ortiz there were purses inside his truck that he did not know whom they belonged to.

Plus, the investigator told Ortiz about blood on his boots.

The conversation shifted to Ortiz’s work schedule and what he did during the week.

District Attorney Isidro Alaniz asked Captain Calderon to clarify questions about the boot and possible gun powder residue.

Day four of the trial ended with the judge excusing jurors for the day.

Click the link below to view KSAT’s livestream coverage of the trial.

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