Accused Border Patrol agent is a Navy veteran, served in Iraq

September 19, 2018

The Border Patrol agent accused of killing four people and assaulting a fifth lived what at least one neighbor called a quiet life with his wife and two children in an upper middle-class subdivision in north Laredo.

A San Antonio man who remembers Juan David Ortiz, 35, when he and his wife, Daniella, lived in a West Side subdivision while he was getting a master’s degree at St. Mary’s University also called him a normal, law-abiding citizen.

Ortiz, known as “J.D.” to friends, was a Navy veteran who served from July 2001 until May 2009, according to Navy records. A native of Brownsville, he had at least one tour of duty in Iraq as a medic and was the focus of a jubilant welcome-home event at the Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport when he returned from Iraq in 2003.

“It’s a miracle for me that he’s coming home,” his mother, Lupita Rocha, told the Brownsville Herald at the time. “I can rest now. I’m happy.”

Rocha has since moved to San Antonio. On Tuesday, her husband said she didn’t want to talk about her son.

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Over the course of his military career, Ortiz was stationed at Great Lakes, Illinois; Fort Sam Houston; Camp Pendleton, California; Twenty-Nine Palms, California; and Fort Sam Houston again from 2005 to 2009.

While in the military, Ortiz enrolled in American Military University, a private, for-profit online institution, and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2009, a spokesman said.

Ortiz’s rank was hospital corpsman, 2nd class. A Navy spokeswoman declined to answer questions about the nature of Ortiz’s discharge or whether he had ever been disciplined.

Ortiz and his wife, Daniella, whom he married in 2004, bought a home in the Westbury Place subdivision during his second stint at Fort Sam Houston. He stayed there and commuted to Cotulla once he began working for Border Patrol in 2009, a neighbor said.

At the Border Patrol, he was promoted to supervisor. He attended St. Mary’s University between 2011 and 2013 and earned a master’s degree in international relations.

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In 2015, Ortiz and his wife sold their San Antonio house and moved to Laredo, records show. In December, they took out a $240,000 mortgage for a newly built home in a neighborhood where several other law enforcement officers live.

No one has answered the door at Ortiz’s house since his arrest; it appears to be empty.

Ortiz remains in Webb County Jail under $2.5 million bond, charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of Melissa Ramirez, 29; Claudie Anne Luera, 42; Humberto Ortiz, 28; and a fourth person who hasn’t yet been identified. He’s also charged with aggravated assault and unlawful restraint involving Erika Peña, 26.

Julia Wallace reports on city and county government for the Laredo Morning Times. | jwallace@lmtonline.com

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