Relatives of Erika Peña, the woman who fought off and escaped from the Border Patrol supervisor who later confessed to killing four women in Texas, say "it's a miracle that she's alive,” but say that she is deeply traumatized from her ordeal. “She can’t think,” her mother, Adriana Rodriguez, told Telemundo. “She can’t sleep. She screams.”
Juan David Ortiz, a nine-year veteran of the federal agency, abducted Peña just a week ago, CNN reports, pointing a gun at her as he held her inside his truck. Rodriguez said that Peña managed to slip out of her blouse after Ortiz grabbed it, and fled from his truck, screaming “help me, help me, someone is trying to kill me!” It was Peña who alerted authorities to Ortiz’s location, and he was later arrested.
"Yes, to others she is a hero,” said her aunt Marcela Rodriguez, “but it doesn't take away the fact that she was also a victim in this tragedy. She is a survivor but she is going through serious trauma.” The family is now attempting to get Peña professional help, and “intend to hire a lawyer,” but “declined to specify what kind of legal action they plan to take.”
Her family also grieved for Ortiz’s other victims, who are believed to have been sex workers. They say he targeted them because he thought “no one would care for them." But during a candlelight vigil this week, community members gathered to remember Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Ann Luera, Janelle Ortiz, and “Jane Doe,” who has now been identified to family by police. "She loved to cook,” Karina Ramos said about her aunt Claudine. “She loved to have family over and entertain us.”
Ortiz “has been charged with four counts of murder and one count each of unlawful restraint and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” and is jailed on $2.5 million bond. Even that amount pales to the more than $60 million in legal settlements “where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention,” the Guardian reports. Still, even with a serial killer in its ranks, Republicans have taken no steps to rein in this out-of-control agency. Democrats, however, have called for an investigation.
Melissa Ramirez, Claudine Ann Luera, Janelle Ortiz, and “Jane Doe” join Claudia Patricia Gómez González, Roxsana Hernández, and countless others who have lost their lives at the hands of federal immigration agents, and whose lives have been forgotten or swept under the rug by an administration that instead looks the other way and continues to demonize the vulnerable. But they mattered, their lives mattered, and they must not be forgotten.