‘High on meth’ driver faces death penalty, three others charged after 53 illegal immigrants die from heat in semi-truck

(Video Credit: NBC News)

The driver of the 18-wheeler that turned into a coffin for 53 illegal immigrants in Texas is now facing life in prison or the death penalty along with three others who are being charged in the horrific incident.

The semi-truck was capable of holding up to one-hundred people. When the doors of the abandoned truck were opened by authorities, there were stacks of bodies. They had perished in the blistering heat with no water or ventilation in the truck.

The reported driver is a 45-year-old American citizen named Homero Zamorano Jr. who lives in Houston. He was allegedly found high on drugs and initially posed as one of the survivors following what is being called the nation’s deadliest smuggling incident according to police.

“He was very high on meth when he was arrested nearby and had to be taken to the hospital,” a law enforcement official told the San Antonio Express News.

He has been charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death according to the Western District of Texas US Attorney’s Office.

Christian Martinez, 28, is also one of those being charged with conspiracy to traffic illegal aliens across the southern border. He allegedly communicated with Zamorano concerning the transport of the immigrants. For his part in the human trafficking scheme that resulted in their horrific deaths, Marinez also faces the death penalty if convicted.

Two other accomplices, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, have both been arrested and charged with possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the US.

Police nailed Martinez in East Texas. He’s now being brought back to San Antonio. The other two were found in San Antonio according to prosecutors.

It is unknown why the truck was abandoned, but police think it may have been due to mechanical problems.

The toll includes 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala, and two from El Salvador, reported Francisco Garduño, the chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.

So far, 37 victims have potentially been identified. Those identifications are pending verification with authorities in other countries, according to the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. Forty of those who perished were male and most were young.

Zamorano “is a good man,” his estranged wife, Jennifer Duncan, told the New York Post.

“I’m in shock, I mean, I just don’t even know what to say about it,” she commented. “I know he wouldn’t do anything if he knew it was gonna harm anybody.”

“He goes out of his way to help anybody and everybody,” she claimed.

Duncan and Zamorano parted ways six months ago.

It is believed that the illegal immigrants boarded the already hot truck on US soil, outside Laredo, Texas according to Rep. Henry Cuellar.

The truck had fake plates and went through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 on Monday, Mexican officials confirmed according to the Daily Mail.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Wednesday that state troopers would set up additional truck checkpoints on highways.

More than a dozen individuals were taken to hospitals. They suffered from brain damage and internal bleeding, according to Rubén Minutti, the Mexico consul general in San Antonio. According to ICE, 11 are still hospitalized.

An illegal immigrant will typically pay $8,000 to $10,000 to be smuggled across the border, loaded into a tractor-trailer, and driven to San Antonio. They are then transferred to smaller vehicles and taken to various places across the country according to Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio.

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