Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3 immigrants found dead in Duval County smuggled through McAllen area stash house

The Monitor
McALLEN — Two people face human smuggling charges after three undocumented immigrants turned up dead on a Duval County highway last month.

A Duval County reserve sheriff’s deputy rolled his car after he swerved to avoid the three bodies along Farm-to-Market Road 1329 about 1 a.m. on June 28.

U.S. Border Patrol agents found a group of undocumented immigrants near the accident scene who said the bodies were illegal immigrants traveling with them, federal court records state.

Other immigrants in the group told deputies that their smuggler, or coyote, had taken two others to the road to pick up food and water. Minutes later, the immigrants said they heard the three struck by a vehicle and left moaning on the road until they died, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

One of the detained immigrants, Michael Gabriel Pimentel Andujar, said he paid $23,000 to be smuggled into the U.S. from his native Dominican Republic, court records state. Pimentel told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents he illegally crossed the Rio Grande with 12 others June 23 before they arrived at a stash house near McAllen.

Details in the federal case were filed July 1 in U.S. District Court in Laredo, but only became public through the court’s online filing system on Tuesday.

Another of the immigrants, Honduran national Eblin Guevara, told investigators that she, her 3-year-old daughter, her two nieces and a nephew crossed illegally into the U.S. crossed with the group and went to the stash house operated by Brenda Abi Bazaldua Mariscal and Rosa Isela Bazaldua.

Guevara identified the women at the stash house from a photo lineup provided by investigators. The house’s address was redacted from court documents.

An official with the Duval County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday no arrests had been made in connection with the two slain immigrants and their smuggler.

Brenda Bazaldua and Canuto Rodriguez — who has been identified by ICE investigators as a suspected smuggler in the group, though his name is not in any criminal complaints — made initial appearances on human smuggling charges last week before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Laredo. No federal charges have been filed against Rosa Isela Bazaldua, online court records state.

Guevara told investigators she was separated from her daughter the day before she left the stash house.
The smugglers told her she would be reunited with her child after she walked through the brush past the Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias — a three-day trip. Her daughter would be smuggled in a vehicle through the checkpoint.

When investigators filed court documents in the case, Guevara still had not found her daughter.

Jared Taylor covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4439.

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