(Reuters) – Texas police on Saturday arrested a veteran U.S. Border Patrol agent, who is suspected of killing four women within the past two weeks and kidnapping a fifth.
Juan David Ortiz, a 35-year-old who has worked for the Border Patrol for a decade, was found hiding in a Laredo parking lot after a woman he allegedly abducted was able to escape and alert law enforcement, officials said.
“We feel that our efforts have gathered strong evidence against this killer. Our community is safe from this killer,” Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said in a statement.
Ortiz was charged late on Saturday with four counts of murder, aggravated assault and unlawful restraint, Webb County, Texas District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said in a tweet.
It was unclear if Ortiz had an attorney or if bond was set.
The four victims’ names were not immediately disclosed. Local media in Laredo, 150 miles (240 km) southwest of San Antonio, said they had been working as prostitutes.
The bodies of two of the women were discovered this month along Interstate 35 in rural northwest Webb County, the Laredo Morning Times reported, while the third and fourth were found in the same area this weekend.
A senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official, Andrew Meehan, said in a statement the agency was cooperating fully with the investigators.
While it was not agency policy to comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, Meehan said, criminal conduct by CBP employees is not, and will not be, tolerated.
“Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends,” Meehan added.
Reporting by Maria Caspani; Additional reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Clarence Fernandez