San Diego

U.S. Citizen Facing Smuggling Charges in Connection with Bodies Found in Trunk

Neil Edwin Valera, 50, is facing charges in connection with three bodies found in a trunk of a BMW on Jamie Avenue in San Diego's Bay Terraces community on Aug. 11

A U.S. citizen has been arrested and faces smuggling charges in connection with the discovery of three bodies in the trunk of a BMW parked in San Diego's Bay Terraces community last month.

Three bodies were found in the trunk of the BMW on the 2000 block of Jamie Avenue at around 5 p.m. on Aug. 11.

The San Diego Police Department received a call just before the grisly discovery about a suspicious car in the area. Witnesses told police blood was dripping from the car and it was emitting a foul odor.

A neighborhood resident said "you can smell the stench of death," coming from the car.

Officers opened the trunk to find the bodies of two women and a man inside. The victims appeared to be in their early 20s or late teens but no other identifying information was known due to the conditions of the bodies, police said.

The U.S. Attorney's office confirmed Tuesday the bodies were those of three Chinese migrants, including a woman, and a mother and her 15-year-old son.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, U.S. citizen and Tijuana, Mexico resident Neil Edwin Valera, 50, was arrested Saturday at the downtown bus station in connection with the deaths.

Valera could face the death penalty if convicted.

Valera, a truck driver from El Paso, Texas, was arraigned in federal court Tuesday and charged with Encouraging Aliens to Enter Resulting in Death and Bringing in Aliens without Presentation for Financial Gain.

Valera allegedly entered the U.S. at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in the BMW two days before the bodies were discovered. Police said witnesses noticed the car that same day but didn't report it until two days later.

“These tragic cases are grim reminders that attempting to cross into the United States illegally in the trunk of a car – and putting your faith, hope and future in the hands of smugglers – is extremely dangerous,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “My office will aggressively prosecute those who smuggle others into the United States for financial gain, place vulnerable people in grave danger, and recklessly cause deaths.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call SDPD or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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