In a news release, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced charges last week against 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr. of Pasadena and 28-year-old Christian Martinez of Palestine.
Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint charging Zamorano with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death. Martinez faces one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.
The DOJ alleged that Zamorano and Martinez smuggled a total of 64 illegal aliens. First responders in San Antonio found 48 of them dead and took 16 survivors to the hospital, where an additional five victims died.
Federal agents arrested Zamorano at the scene of the crime, where he was “observed hiding in the brush after attempting to abscond.”
The dead include 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, two Hondurans, and 17 individuals of unknown national origin, according to the DOJ.
The government stated that Laredo border patrol officials provided surveillance footage depicting the tractor-trailer in question “crossing through an immigration checkpoint.” The driver had on the same clothing Zamorano was wearing when San Antonio police officers arrested him, per the DOJ.
Police arrested Martinez in Palestine and the defendant appeared in Tyler for an initial appearance. However, the DOJ noted he would be taken to San Antonio for further proceedings.
The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Two Mexican citizens connected to the deaths are also facing prison sentences on charges of possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the U.S.
If convicted and sentenced to death, Zamorano and Martinez could be executed at the federal government’s lethal injection chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Only 16 federal prisoners have been put to death in recent decades, 13 of whom were executed during the final months of the Trump administration.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."