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San Antonio jury finds former Border Patrol agent guilty of capital murder.

Isidro "Chilo" Alaniz delivers closing arguments to jury
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Isidro "Chilo" Alaniz delivers closing arguments to jury

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Updated 8:00pm

A jury in San Antonio found Juan David Ortiz guilty of the capital murder carrying a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Joel Perez interrupted Judge Oscar Hale and asked that the jury be polled. What followed were 12 somber voices saying "guilty."

After the verdict, families of the victims were allowed to read prepared statements.

"She was sick as were the rest of these girl," said Joey Cantu, Guiselda Cantu's brother.

"She will always be the six-year-old girl," he said before breaking into tears. “She was all that I had bro. You took the last living member of my family, bro."

Closing arguments against the former Border Patrol supervisor concluded Wednesday in the murder trial that included four women.

On September 14th 2018, Erika Pena said she escaped Ortiz. He had put a gun in her face and pulled her shirt off as she exited his truck. The jury was shown video footage of Pena approaching a DPS agent getting gas at a nearby station and telling him the story of her escape.

Webb District Attorney Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz told the jury that Ortiz expected Pena go to police, so that night he returned home to prepare for “an ambush.” When it didn’t come, he went “hunting” for more victims.

In the next two hours, Alaniz said Ortiz murdered two more women: Guiselda Cantu and Janell Ortiz.

Ortiz was recorded admitting to the killings, saying he had frequented the sex workers.

All the victims were sex workers who Ortiz would admit to frequenting. There names are Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Luera, Guiselda Cantu, and Janelle Ortiz.

Prosecutor Katrina Rios said the jury should focus their attention on that video and transcript.

"He will tell you in there why he did this,” Rios said. “At least four times he is going to say it...I was cleaning up the streets, I was cleaning up the streets, I was cleaning up the streets, I was cleaning up the streets.”

Rios said the state had reached a high bar of providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

“We are standing atop the Mount Everest of evidence,” said Rios.

Ortiz's defense attorney, Joel Perez
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Ortiz's defense attorney, Joel Perez

Ortiz’s defense lawyer Joel Perez continued to say the state had not made its case against his client — that the confession recorded by police in an interrogation was coerced and the search of his truck was illegal.

Perez, who presented no witnesses in the case, said the police put blinders on and focused only on Ortiz and they made mistakes along the way. Perez said police should have stopped questioning his client when he told them he didn’t want to speak with them.

“Use your common sense…no means no,” he told the jury.

“This is not a popularity contest…it is not your fault the police used these tactics, excessive tactics…under your oath you must disregard these statements,” Perez said.

Juan David Ortiz (right) stands with one of his attorneys
Paul Flahive
Juan David Ortiz (right) stands with one of his attorneys

Webb District Attorney Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz called the Ortiz “cold, callous, calculated.”

He held up photos of each woman and recounted their last moments with Ortiz. Alaniz recounted that Luera had been alive when she was found calling her a “fighter.” He reminded the jury that Janell Ortiz had asked the question “are you going to kill me?” shortly before the former border patrol supervisor killed her.

Family members sitting in the courtroom could be heard crying. Around eight of them were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the four women's faces. On the back, "They are Loved” was printed in big, pink cursive letters.

Alaniz referred to Tuesday’s testimony from DPS firearm expert Sean Daniel who linked the 40 caliber H&K handgun found in Ortiz’s truck to bullets recovered from all the victims. The gun was Ortiz’s service weapon, the ammunition was government issued.

“The science doesn’t lie,” said Alaniz.

The gun that holds 13 bullets had only 9 when they found it, less the three bullets it took to kill Cantu and the one to kill Janell Ortiz.

At one point early in his rebuttal closing statement, Alaniz marched—finger pointing—at the defense table: “Mr. Ortiz was a serial killer then and he is a serial killer now.”

Initially a death penalty case, the state is now seeking life without parole.

A court employee waded through family members finding out who would like to speak in the event of a guilty verdict. Victims Impact Statement sheets were passed between the group. One young woman could be seen reading and rereading a handwritten statement, closing the manila file folder it was in for a moment and reopening.

“I was 14 years old when you took my mother away from me,” reads the sheet on another woman’s lap as she transcribes it from a phone.

The case being prosecuted by the Webb County district attorney and overseen by a Webb county-based state district judge was moved to Bexar due to the amount of media coverage it had received there.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org