Alleged smugglers charged in death of pregnant immigrant

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SAN DIEGO — Two suspected immigrant smugglers accused of leaving an undocumented pregnant woman to die in the Otay Mountains last December were arraigned on federal charges Wednesday at the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Fernando Armenta-Romero, 43, and Carlos Hernandez-Palma, 35, who were arrested over the Labor Day weekend, are charged with bringing in an illegal alien resulting in death. They were ordered held without bail pending a hearing next week.

On Dec. 29, the Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue unit responded to a report of a 32-year-old woman abandoned in the Otay Mountain Wilderness, near the U.S.-Mexico border in southeastern San Diego County.

Border Patrol agents contacted the reporting party, who identified himself as Baltazar Razo-Barreto, the  woman’s husband.

Razo told the agents that his wife — Jaqueline Capistran-Ochoa — had been in medical distress when he left her in the care of others while he sought help.

After an extensive two-day search, Razo eventually led agents to an area where they discovered her body.

According to the medical examiner, Capistran’s death was attributed to hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis due to diabetes and hypothermia from exposure. She was 11 to 12 weeks pregnant.

According to the complaint, the smugglers told the woman’s husband that they would smuggle the couple into the United States for $12,000.

The smugglers allegedly told Razo that the trip from Mexico into the United States was not particularly arduous, the hardest part being the scaling of the border fence.

Before leaving Tijuana, the smugglers argued about whether Capistran was fit enough to make the trek, but decided to go ahead with the plan considering the promised payment, the complaint alleges.

On the third day, Razo left his unresponsive wife with the defendants to seek help. But by the time help arrived, Capistran was found dead and the defendants had hiked out of the mountains, according to the complaint.

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