Bond Reduction Request Denied for Laredo Border Agent Accused of Murders
LAREDO – A judge denied a bond reduction request to the man accused of killing four people during a killing spree in Laredo September 2018.
Judge Oscar Hale of the 406th District Court in Webb County heard the case involving Juan David Ortiz, 36, a Laredo Sector Border Patrol agent.
Ortiz is accused of killing four people in a span of two weeks starting on Sept. 3, 2018 through Sept. 15.
A bond was set against Ortiz for $2,510,000, but he remains under state custody after failing to pay.
Joel Perez, attorney for Ortiz, called the bond amount “suppressive” saying having a bond that high has the same effect of having no bond.
Perez and his co-counsel, Raymond E. Fuchs, called forth three witness for Ortiz: his mother, uncle and a friend who served with him in Iraq.
They referred to Ortiz as “responsible,” “reasonable,” and someone who was “never violent.”
His friend also added that he noticed Ortiz changed after he was issued medication to treat “mood swings.”
When pressed by state prosecutors, he did not specify in what way Ortiz had changed.
State prosecutors aimed to prove Ortiz is a flight risk whose potential penalties, life in prison or death, would act as an incentive to flee. They also reminded the court that one of his current charges is for evading arrest.
When Ortiz was approached by Department of Public Safety troopers, he fled and hid in the bed of a pickup truck parked at a downtown hotel parking garage.
Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz argued Ortiz remains a danger to the community. He called two witnesses to talk about the homicides and subsequent investigation.
Erica Peña testified; she knew Juan David Ortiz intimately and described their relationship as a friendship. She admitted to prostitution allegations and explained it helped sustain her drug habit.
Peña said she also knew the other victims and said they were in the same situation and also struggled with drug addictions.
Peña testified she was with Ortiz on Sept. 14, 2018. According to her testimony, Ortiz picked up Peña around 6 p.m.
That day, she said she noticed he was acting differently. She asked if he knew about the two deaths of the first and second victim.
Ortiz said he had heard about it in the news, but Peña said she felt uneasy. They went to buy drugs and later to his house where she would consume the heroin.
The uneasiness kept building.
At one point, Peña said she heard a voice in her head telling her to get out of there. She tried leaving, but Ortiz was wary of her behavior, too, she suspected.
She told Alaniz she felt nervous, sick to her stomach and vomited outside the house. That led Ortiz and Peña to conclude she should eat something to feel better. They went to a gas station in his truck.
Peña says Ortiz pulled a gun when they were at the station and she tried to leave.
They struggled as he pointed a weapon in her direction while trying to grab her from the shoulders by pulling on her shirt.
Ortiz disputed the claims saying he was waving his gun in her direction and that the situation was misinterpreted.
Peña said she slipped out of his grip and ran out shirtless to ask for help from a nearby state trooper filling up at the gas station.
Since the incident, Alaniz disclosed Peña was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. She said she still has nightmares where Ortiz appears. She said she feared for her and her family’s life if he were to be released.
Peña led authorities to Ortiz.
Webb County Sheriff’s Office Captain of Criminal Investigations Federico Calderon testified he was already considering the first two homicides were linked because it involved to women killed in a similar fashion with the same caliber weapon.
The DA aimed to use his testimony to stress his belief that Ortiz could have continued the killing spree.
Calderon explained authorities went to Ortiz’ residence. In his kitchen, they found a rifle, handgun (separate from the one used in the commission of the crimes), a taser and ammunition provided to law enforcement.
According to testimony, Ortiz said he suspected law enforcement was closing in and had weapons ready for a potential confrontation.
Judge Hale decided to let the bond stay as it was issued.
Should Ortiz make bond, he would be subject to home confinement, GPS tracking and would not be able to have weapons and would not be able to make contact with witness and victim relatives.
In the meantime, Ortiz will have to stay in state custody until his trial. A date has yet to be scheduled.