A 17-year-old boy, convicted of beheading four people, was released from a Mexican prison Tuesday.
San Diego-born Edgar Jimenez Lugo spent the last three years behind bars in the state of Morelos in Central Mexico. He was expected to be released Dec. 3.
New video of the teenager’s release shows several SUVs and pickup trucks leaving the prison in the early morning hours.
In 2010, the case of then 14-year-old Jimenez Lugo received intense media attention, given his age and the horrendous nature of the crimes. He admitted to killing one person when he was just 11 years old.
Jimenez Lugo told reporters he had been drugged and threatened by the cartel.
The boy was sentenced to three years in prison, the maximum sentence allowed within the juvenile courts.
Criminal Defense Attorney Guadalupe Valencia said Mexico is considering increasing the penalties for children who commit serious crimes.
“I think individual states will make changes in Mexico, and I think this case is a catalyst to those changes,” Valencia said.
Valencia said there are also other possibilities for reform.
“In many states in the U.S., we have post-release support. But in Mexico and in many states, they don’t have that,” he said. “Once you’re done with your sentence, that’s it. You’re done.”
Jimenez Lugo was reportedly released to a church in San Antonio where he will receive shelter and counseling.
Rogelio Duarte is the church's groundskeeper and also lives at the church. He described the teen’s demeanor:
“He looked lost, like kind of down, a bit confused,” Duarte said. “It’s his first time being around this kind of thing.”
The teen assassin, known as El Ponchis, dropped out of school in third grade and will face challenges going forward.
“I think if anything positive comes out of this, it brings to light the issue of juveniles and juvenile crime and how you deal with it in a way that helps society,” Valencia said. “It’s hard to argue that the way the system is set up now is good.”
Duarte said the teen won’t face judgment while at the church because everyone deserves a second chance.
“Most of us came from violent backgrounds. This is a place where it all begins, the miracles. The life-changing process is right here,” Duarte said. “We just welcome anybody with open arms.”
Mexican authorities and the teen’s family expressed concern about his safety if he stayed in Mexico after his release. It is unclear if he will remain in Texas or return to San Diego.