The man accused in the death of three migrants found in the trunk of a car in August was arraigned on related charges in San Diego court Tuesday.
According to court documents, Neil Edwin Valera, a U.S. citizen who lives in Mexico, was arraigned in federal court in connection with the deaths of three Chinese migrants, including a mother and her 15-year-old son.
The third person in the trunk was a female. None of the victims have been identified.
Authorities say Valera is a truck driver from El Paso, Texas. He was arrested at a downtown San Diego bus station Saturday.
Valera was charged with encouraging aliens to enter resulting in death and bringing aliens without presentation for financial gain.
Police discovered the bodies of the three migrants in the trunk of a 1999 silver BMW on August 11 after being called to the 2100 block of Jamie Avenue by a person reporting a foul odor.
“The wind would start to blow a little bit, you can smell like, a really, like, it’s hard to explain. I’ve never smelled that before but I thought, well, maybe it was like trash or, you know, like that kind of smell but a very more pungent odor than that,” a neighbor told 10News.
Video recordings reportedly showed the same car crossing into the U.S. from Mexico on August 9.
“These tragic cases are grim reminders that attempting to cross into the United States illegally in the trunk of a car – and putting your faith, hope and future in the hands of smugglers – is extremely dangerous,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.