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Homero Zamorano Jr, 45, was charged with immigrant smuggling resulting in death by federal prosecutors on Wednesday (30 June) and the United States Department of Justice confirmed Zamorano may face the death penalty.
Christian Martinez, 28, has also been charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants resulting in death and if convicted could also be sentenced to death.
The United States Department of Justice confirmed on Wednesday: “Zamorano is charged by criminal complaint with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death. He is originally from Brownsville but resides in Pasadena, TX. If convicted, Zamorano faces up to life in prison or possibly the death penalty.”
A press release was published the same day that the total number of fatalities climbed to 53.
A further 12 adults and four children were found alive inside the truck and were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
According to The Mirror, Zamorano allegedly tried to pose as a victim of the tragedy before he was arrested near the scene of the crime.
Migrants’ bodies were discovered at the beginning of the week near the US-Mexico border in what’s believed to be one of the deadliest human-trafficking incidents in U.S. history.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus released a statement on the incident, calling it a 'tragic loss of life'.
"This speaks to the desperation of migrants who would put their lives in the hands of callous human smugglers who show no regard for human life," Magnus said.
"We will be working with our federal, state and local partners to assist in every way possible with this investigation."
The Customs and Border Protection Commissioner added that the three people currently in police custody were not found with the truck, but would not elaborate any further.
Emergency vehicles were first spotted arriving at the scene at around 8pm on Monday (June 27).
Speaking after the horrific discovery, a police officer revealed that the bodies were 'sprinkled in steak seasoning'.
The law enforcement official spoke to The Texas Tribune, revealing that the refrigeration unit inside the truck was broken and would have led to catastrophic levels of heat.
The same official also said that many of the people found inside the truck-trailer had been peppered with steak seasoning, 'in perhaps an attempt to cover up the smell of people as the smugglers were transporting them'.
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