Federal prosecutors late Wednesday announced smuggling charges against two men in connection with the deaths of 53 migrants after they were found Monday in San Antonio in a trailer without water or air conditioning.
Federal prosecutors identified the driver as Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, who was charged with smuggling resulting in death. Zamorano lives in the suburban Houston city of Pasadena and is originally from the Texas border city of Brownsville, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Antonio.
Zamorano was discovered by police hiding in some nearby bushes, prosecutors said. He tried to slip away by pretending to be one of the survivors, a Mexican immigration official said Wednesday.
Zamorano faces the most serious charges along with Christian Martinez, 28, who is accused of conspiracy and allegedly communicating with Zamorano about transporting the migrants.
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Both men face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
Agents searched Zamorano’s cellphone and found he had been in contact with Martinez, prosecutors said.
Zamorano was scheduled to have his first court appearance Thursday. It was not immediately known if either suspect had an attorney.
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Two other men who are not U.S. citizens were also arrested on charges of illegal weapons possession. Prosecutors say investigators found the men at a San Antonio address where the truck was registered.
The truck had been packed with 67 people, and the dead included 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduno, chief of Mexico's National Immigration Institute.
Meanwhile, a makeshift memorial on the isolated road where the migrants were found is growing with flowers, crosses and bottles of water.
"Lord help us,” San Antonio resident Elizabeth Hernandez said outside the memorial. “We all just need to stick together and pray and do what's right.”
About a dozen survivors remain hospitalized.