Authorities have identified Janelle Ortiz of Laredo, a transgender woman, as one of four people murdered near Laredo, in Webb County on the Texas/Mexico border, during a two-week span earlier this month. Initial reports identified Janelle Ortiz as a man and dead-named her.
NBC News reports that Janelle Ortiz was 28 years old and was also known as Nikki Enriquez. She is at least the 21st transgender person murdered in the U.S. in 2018. Of those, 17 have been trans women of color.
Texas Border Patrol Agent Juan David Ortiz — who goes by David Ortiz and is no relation to Janelle Ortiz — has been arrested and charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping. He was identified and arrested after Erika Pena, a woman he had kidnapped, managed to escape and report the attack to a Texas state trooper.
Webb County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested David Ortiz — a 10-year veteran of the Texas Border Patrol who reportedly worked in intelligence — in the parking lot of a hotel in Laredo. He is being held on $2.5 million bond.
Law enforcement officials said that David Ortiz’s killing spree began Sept. 3 when he allegedly shot to death Melissa Ramirez, 29, on a rural road. The second victim was Claudine Loera, 42, whose body was found Sept. 13, according to the Texas Tribune.
According to a report in the Washington Post, David Ortiz’s last two victims — Janelle Ortiz and Griselda Alicia Hernandez Cantu, 35 — were both killed between the time the kidnapped woman escaped and contacted police on Sept. 15 and the time deputies arrested David Ortiz later that day.
The Tribune reports that according to officials, all four victims were “sex workers” and that David Ortiz targeted them because they were “vulnerable and defenseless” and because, David Ortiz told authorities, “he disliked ‘the community they represented.’”
— Tammye Nash