Two arrested for the death of migrants in Texas could be sentenced to death

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The alleged driver of a truck loaded with dozens of migrantss who died in the sweltering heat during a smuggling attempt in Texas and an accused co-conspirator were charged Wednesday in US federal court with human trafficking offenses.

If they are found guilty, each man faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, or possibly the death penaltythe US Department of Justice said in announcing charges stemming from the deadliest migrant smuggling incident on record in the United States.

The death toll from the tragedy rose to 53 on Wednesday as local authorities reported two more immigrants initially hospitalized for their ordeal crammed inside a suffocating tractor-trailer they had died.

The truck, which was transporting migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvadorwas discovered abandoned Monday in a desolate industrial zone near a highway on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texasabout 250 kilometers north of the United States, on the border with Mexico.

Temperatures in the area that day had soared to 103 Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius), and responding authorities found no water supplies or signs that the air conditioning was working inside the building. cargo trailer.

Officials described finding the back door of the trailer ajar with “piles of bodies” of migrants inside, many of them hot to the touch. Other victims were discovered on the ground nearby, some deceased, some incapacitated. It was not clear from the official accounts how the door was opened.

According to radio dispatch audio from authorities who were first on the scene, no one inside the trailer was conscious and only a dozen appeared to be breathing at first.

The alleged driver of the truck, Homero Zamorano Jr.45, a Texas native who was arrested near the scene, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of “alien smuggling resulting in death,” according to the Justice Department.

San Antonio police officers found Zamorano hiding in the brush, according to federal prosecutors. Francisco Garduño, director of the National Institute of Migration of Mexicotold a news conference on Wednesday that the driver had “tried to pass himself off as one of the survivors” when he was detained.

A second suspect Christian Martinez, The 28-year-old was arrested Tuesday and charged with a single count of “conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants,” the police said. Justice Department in your statement. His nationality was not immediately disclosed.

Federal prosecutors said Martinez was connected to the operation of smuggling through communications with Zamorano detected between the two men after investigators searched Zamorano’s mobile phone.

Two more men suspected of involvement in the deadly smuggling incident, both Mexican nationals, were charged Tuesday in a United States federal court of being undocumented immigrants in possession of firearms.

Authorities said that Juan Francisco de Luna Bilbao and Juan Claudio de Luna Mendez, were arrested when they were seen leaving a San Antonio residence listed on the Texas state vehicle registration from the tractor trailer.

A federal judge in San Antonio ordered them to remain in custody to face a preliminary hearing set for Friday. (rts)

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