Mexican authorities arrested a pair traveling from the U.S. into Mexico after finding a toddler’s body inside a duffel bag. The man and woman, Johnny Lewis Hartley and Mercy Mary Becerra, were stopped by the authorities shortly after crossing the border from San Diego to Tijuana, CBS News reports.
When the pair was confronted by the authorities, Becerra fled but was detained shortly after. When the duffel bag was examined by an x-ray machine, the body of a toddler, estimated to be 2-years-old, was noticed and Hartley was immediately detained.
“An X-ray of the duffel bag revealed a body inside.”
Mexican authorities handed Hartley and Becerra over to the authorities in San Diego, where they have been charged with one count of child cruelty and one count of murder. The charges may change after the toddler’s autopsy reveals a cause of death.
San Diego authorities believe the toddler may have died in the Whittier/Los Angeles Area in California, which is where the pair was from, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. The identity of the toddler is unknown at this time, but it has been said that the child was a girl.
“It has been determined that this incident may have occurred in Whittier.”
What we do know is that the toddler was not the child of Hartley or Becerra. The toddler’s cause of death is not known at this time, but the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office have conducted an autopsy. Hopefully, we will receive some answers as to what happened to this innocent child.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Records shows Hartley has quite a criminal history. Hartley was a gang member and was arrested in 1999 for a gang-related crime resulting in involuntary manslaughter. Hartley was also charged with possessing, manufacturing, or selling a deadly weapon.
In 2005, Hartley was arrested for possessing drugs with the intent to deliver, receiving a sentence of 2 years and 8 months in jail.
Five years later, Harley was charged with another gang-related crime, including possession of a firearm as a felon. Other charges were dropped in this case, including assault with a firearm and attempted murder.
Becerra doesn’t have a record as substantial as Hartley’s. She has a significant amount of vehicle-related charges, as well as a felony charge when she was 19 for selling or transporting a controlled substance.
KTLA5 reveals that there is not much of a chance that the toddler died of natural causes. As of 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Hartley was checked into San Diego Central Jail. Becerra was booked into the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility. Both Hartley and Becerra are scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.
Henry Muñoz, a former neighbor of the couple, made a statement to the San Diego Police. Muñoz mentioned that the pair was evicted several years ago. He also stated that Johnny had eight children.
Lt. Ray Valentin of the San Diego Police Department told NBC7 that it has been revealed during interviews with the suspects that the couple may have known the little girl and her parents. Valentin also mentioned that organ trafficking has been ruled out in this case. The parents of the girl live in the Whittier/Los Angeles area.
Nothing more has been released in regard to this case, but information will be revealed as it becomes available. For now, our thoughts are with the family and friends of the little girl during this tragic time.
If anyone has any information that can assist the police with this investigation is urged to contact the San Diego Police Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293. You can also contract Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
[Image via Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock]