Updated 5:25 p.m.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent who confessed to shooting four women in the head and leaving their bodies on rural Texas roadsides now faces the death penalty, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
A grand jury decided to upgrade the charge to capital murder against Juan David Ortiz, said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz at a news conference.
"The reason we are pursuing the death penalty ... is based on the horrific nature of the murders and his complete disregard for human life," he said. "... Ortiz preyed on the sick, the weak, the vulnerable. San Fernando was his hunting ground. What does that make him? That makes him a predator."
The victims were Melissa Ramirez, 29; Claudine Luera, 42; Guiselda Cantu, 35; and 28-year-old Humberto Janelle Ortiz, Alaniz said.
Alaniz added that Ortiz only faced one count of capital murder instead multiple counts because of the way the murders were connected. They each held a common "scheme."
“Although the first case was a straight murder against Melissa, he followed up by seeking out and hunting down people with similar characteristics,” Alaniz said. “People who he picked up on the same boulevard — San Bernardo Avenue in Webb County — people that worked on the streets. He took them and killed them in desolate areas that were very similar.”
Ortiz 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, a second-degree felony, third-degree felony and class A misdemeanor in Texas, according to a news release.
WATCH | Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz
Ortiz, 35, was arrested Sept. 15 in the border town of Laredo.
According to Alaniz, Ortiz's motive was "to clean up the streets of Laredo by targeting this community of individuals he perceived to be disposable — that no one would miss, and that he did not give value to," he said Wednesday.
On Sept. 14, Juan David Ortiz picked up another woman, Erika Pena. After Pena was assaulted by Ortiz, she fled and found a state trooper at a gas station in Laredo, according to a news release.
With Pena's help, authorities were able to track Ortiz to a hotel parking garage where he was arrested.
It could be a year before Ortiz faces a judge, Alaniz said.
“I anticipate he’ll have counsel appointed to him — counsel that is certified in capital cases,” he said. “... We will continue to analyze evidence in this case from his phone, from the crime scenes, testing that still needs to be done. There’s still a lot of work to do. There was enough right now under the statute that we needed to get him indicted before these 90 days expired and that’s been accomplished.”
READ | Juan David Ortiz Indicted for Capital Murder