Welcome to Tell Tale Crimes, the crime column of the Quaker Campus. A new addition to the QC, Tell Tale Crimes will aim to provide a look at both local and national crimes and cases that are sometimes interesting, sometimes relevant, and sometimes both, from the perspective of a true crime enthusiast. I became fascinated by true crime at a surprisingly young age after a school project on psychosis. With my obscure knowledge of serial killers in hand, I skirted the periphery of crime and horror until my college years. Then I discovered an obsession with glitz, glam, and grim crimes that is unique to Southern California. From the Black Dahlia, to the Cecil Hotel, to Richard Ramirez, Southern California is ripe with historical and current crimes that are worth a story. So here I am writing scary stories, both local and national, and true ones at that.
Be forewarned, the pieces published in this column will contain descriptions of violent crimes or crime scenes. Thank you for reading.
Serial killers are peculiar, to say the least. Some are cold, and calculated, with lots of planning. They are charming and friendly, and they can seem non-threatening. Ted Bundy got his victims to trust him by donning an arm cast and asking women to help him carry things to his yellow Volkswagen bug. Some serial killers are erratic and unpredictable. David Berkowitz, better known as the Son of Sam, supposedly chose his victims through hallucinations of his neighbor’s dog talking to him.
We do not know what kind of serial killer Juan David Ortiz is. A Border patrol agent and Navy veteran, Ortiz was arrested on Sept. 15 after a female sex worker escaped him and ran to a local gas station, according to CNN. Ortiz told the woman his name was David. He picked her up, and they began discussing the local missing prostitutes. At that point, Ortiz pulled a gun. The woman tried to flee, but Ortiz grabbed her shirt to keep her in the car. The woman pulled her shirt off to escape and ran until she found a state trooper. Hours later, Ortiz was found at a gas station in Laredo where she fled on foot, but was found hiding in a truck bed at the local Ramada Inn.
Ortiz confessed to killing four women, all sex workers. He murdered two before encountering the victim who escaped, and two in the hours after, according to People. The first two victims were 29-year-old Melissa Ramierez, who was killed on Sept. 3, and 42-year-old Claudine Luera, who was killed Sept. 10. The names of the two other victims, one of whom was a transgender woman, have not been released. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility of more victims aside from the ones that Ortiz has revealed.
Police have yet to release moreinformation on Ortiz, leaving his motivations unclear for killing these four women. What we can derive from the facts is that he is a serial killer. Based on definition alone, serial killers murder at least three people in succession, with a cooling-off period between each kill. Think of it as coming down from a high. Over time, Ortiz’s cooling off period decreased significantly. There was a seven-day cooling-off period between the first and second murders, a four-day cooling-off period between the second and attempted third murder, and then hours between the last murders. This is indicative of a greater need to kill, or a sense of urgency. Perhaps Ortiz knew he was about to get caught, or perhaps he was finally breaking down. Whatever the case, his actions have shown an urgent need to kill.
Ortiz also chose a type of victim that would be considered “high risk.” Not a high risk for him, but a victim who lived a life that would put them at risk of harm. This by no means implies that these women are at fault for their deaths. Due to the current protections, or lack of, for sex workers, society has seen them as people who are unlikely to be missed. Instead of criminalizing the abuse of sex workers, or putting protections into place for sex workers so that they may work safely and healthily, the U.S. government criminalizes the act of prostitution so that sex workers must operate secretly and without protection. Ortiz took advantage of this, as have many other serial killers.
I find it interesting that Ortiz was in a position of considerable power in the current state of this country, considering that he was a Border Patrol Agent as well as a Navy veteran. As merely a crime enthusiast, it is impossible for me to provide a complete or even fully accurate analysis of Ortiz’s state of mind at the time of the murders. My thoughts as to why he killed those women are purely speculative unless proven by police evidence. However, as someone who knows men in positions of militant power and seen how it can change them, I can say this: Uniformed positions, such as the police or military, foster a particular kind of toxic masculinity that is detrimental both to men and to the people around them. Some of them earn a kind of commanding power that, to them, can seem untouchable, and, during work, it should be.
Perhaps, while in the field, this kind of masculinity is beneficial to complete their jobs to their fullest capacity, but at home, I cannot be quite as certain. While this may not apply to all or even most men in uniform, it applies to enough that, when I see an officer of the law, I am more scared than I am at peace.