Autopsy Reveals 7-Year-Old Died From Sepsis In US Custody

Guatemalan girl died in Customs and Border Protection custody last December

A border patrol setup outside of El Paso, Texas.
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Guatemalan girl died in Customs and Border Protection custody last December

New autopsy results have revealed that Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died in US Customs and Border Patrol custody late last year, had sepsis, according to CNN.

The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s office released the autopsy report Friday. It cited streptococcal sepsis, a bacterial infection, as the cause of death. Streptococcus bacteria were reportedly found in Maquin’s lungs, adrenal gland, liver and spleen. The “rapidly progressive” infection quickly led to “multiple organ dysfunction and death.”

The autopsy did not give any details regarding when or how Maquin caught the infection. She died just two days after being taken into CBP custody along with her 29-year-old father, Nery Gilberto Caal.

A CBP news release from the time of Jakelin’s death last December stated that

“Border Patrol Agents, including trained Emergency Medical Technicians did everything in their power to provide emergency medical assistance for Jakelin Caal Maquin immediately after her father notified the agents of her distress…Border Patrol Agents revived Jakelin twice before emergency responders arrived via air ambulance to continue medical care. Emergency Medical professionals transported her by helicopter to the nearest children’s hospital.”

The report also mentioned that rescue efforts were complicated by Jakelin’s location — she and her father were detained at a “remote Forward Operating Base, 94 miles from the nearest Border Patrol station.” The isolated base lacked advanced treatment capabilities and forced agents to waste precious time transporting her to a location that could provide care.

Lynn Coyle, a lawyer representing Jakelin’s family released a statement pushing for a third-party investigation into the girl’s death (per CNN).

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“The report’s findings suggest that Jakelin’s chances of surviving would have been improved with earlier medical intervention. As we requested back in December of last year, the family seeks a thorough independent investigation of this matter to learn why medical intervention was delayed.”

The statement from the CBP emphasized the dangers of traveling thousands of miles — including through harsh deserts — to cross into the United States border illegally, as Jakelin’s family did. It added that Border Patrol agents save “thousands” of migrants each year who succumb to heat stroke, dehydration, hypothermia, and injuries suffered during their journeys. Finally, the CBP offered condolences to Jakelin’s family and stated their support in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“Despite our trained EMT agents’ best efforts fighting for Jakelin’s life, and the work of the Hidalgo County and Providence Children’s Hospital medical teams treating her, we were unable to rescue her. The agents involved are deeply affected and empathize with the father over the loss of his daughter.”