A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent in Texas, whom authorities are calling a “serial killer,” was arrested Saturday on suspicion of killing four people after a woman he allegedly kidnapped was able to escape and alert police.
Juan David Ortiz, 35, was taken into custody early Saturday morning in Laredo in connection with the deaths of three women and a man, authorities said.
"The county, the city can rest assured that we have a serial killer in custody,” Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said during a news conference on Saturday.
Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said prosecutors “have probable cause to believe that he is responsible for this series of murders,” which he said “qualify as a serial murderer.”
Ortiz is a 10-year veteran of the border patrol and had been working as a supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol in the town located roughly 150 miles south of San Antonio on Texas-Mexico border, according to local media reports.
Authorities said they plan to file four murder charges and one charge of aggravated kidnapping against Ortiz.
Ortiz was arrested around 2 a.m. Saturday morning after a woman he allegedly tried to abduct fled and gave police a detailed description of Ortiz, including his tattoos, Alaniz said.
Authorities told reporters that after state troopers spotted Ortiz at a Laredo gas station, he fled to a nearby hotel where he was found hiding in the bed of a pick-up truck and arrested without incident. The motive for the string of killings is not yet known, but authorities said the victims all worked as prostitutes.
Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar added that investigators have “very strong evidence” Ortiz is the lone suspect in the four deaths. “The county, the city can rest assured we have the serial killer in custody,” he said.
The cause of death in each case was similar, but police have not released details. “He was profiling certain kinds of victims,” Alaniz said according to CNN. “The suspect was hunting for his victims.”
The investigation, which is being led by the Texas Rangers with help from local sheriffs, began Sept. 4 after Melissa Ramirez, 29, of Laredo, was found slain.
The body count quickly grew this week. On Thursday, authorities found Claudine Anne Luera, 42, alive in a roadway close to where Ramirez had been discovered. She later died at a local hospital from head trauma.
A third body was found Friday night in rural northwest Webb County, and a fourth body surfaced Saturday afternoon. The identities of last two victims have not been released.
Customs and Border Patrol said it was cooperating with investigators.
“Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated,” the agency said in a statement.
“Out of respect to the victims’ family and friends, we ask that deference and due process be given to the investigation so that all the facts are brought to light and they can receive the closure they deserve.”