Texas

2 charged in migrant death trailer case in which 53 died

SAN ANTONIO – Two men were charged Wednesday in the case of a hot airless tractor-trailer that was found last month with 53 dead or dying migrants in San Antonio, officials said.

A federal grand jury in San Antonio indicted Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, both of Pasadena, Texas, on charges of trafficking and conspiracy to illegally transport migrants resulting in death; and transporting and conspiring to illegally transport migrants resulting in serious injury.

Both remain in federal custody without bond pending trial. Martinez’s attorney, David Shearer of San Antonio, declined to comment on the allegations. A message to Zamorano’s attorney was not immediately returned.

Conviction in the capital cases can result in life sentences, but the Attorney General’s Office can authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Serious bodily harm is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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It was the deadliest tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico. The truck was full of 67 people, and the dead included 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduño, head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.

The accident happened on a remote back road in San Antonio on June 27. Arriving officers took Zamorano into custody after spotting him hiding in nearby bushes, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A search of Zamorano’s cell phone revealed conversations with Martinez about the contraband.

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Surveillance video of the 18-wheeler going through a Border Patrol checkpoint showed the driver matched Zamorano’s description, according to the indictment. One survivor of the trip, a 20-year-old from Guatemala, told The Associated Press that the smugglers covered the floor of the trailer with what she believed to be chicken broth powder, apparently to drive out any dogs at the checkpoint.

The tragedy comes at a time when huge numbers of migrants are coming to the US, many of them taking dangerous risks to cross rapid rivers and canals and scorching desert landscapes. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, a third more than a year ago.

Of the 73 people in the truck, the dead included people from the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Mexico, Zacatecas, Queretaro, Morelos and Mexico City. Migrants from Honduras and Guatemala were also among those killed in the deadliest known smuggling attempt into the United States.

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In 2017, 10 people died after being trapped inside a truck parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, the bodies of 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of the city.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

2 charged in migrant death trailer case in which 53 died

Source link 2 charged in migrant death trailer case in which 53 died

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