'High on meth' driver of Texas tractor-trailer that killed 53 immigrants faces DEATH PENALTY

Authorities said they found Zamorano, 45, 'very high on meth' and posing as one of the survivors of the tragedy that claimed 53 lives

'High on meth' driver of Texas tractor-trailer that killed 53 immigrants faces DEATH PENALTY
Homero Zamorano, 45, was found 'very high on meth' and posing as one of the survivors after the tragedy that claimed 53 lives (DOJ)
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Homero Zamorano Jr, the truck driver who smuggled nearly 100 immigrants across the southern border and later left them to die in the sweltering Texas heat, could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Authorities said they found Zamorano, 45, "very high on meth" and posing as one of the survivors after the tragedy that claimed 53 lives. The semi-truck driver was charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death, according to the Western District of Texas US Attorney's Office. Others facing conviction include Christian Martinez, 28, who will also face the death penalty after being charged with conspiracy. He allegedly communicated with Zamorano about transporting the illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, alleged accomplices Juan Claudio D'Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D'Luna-Bilbao, 48, were charged with possession of a weapon by an alien illegally on US soil.

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While Martinez was arrested in East Texas, the other two men were found at a San Antonio address where the truck was registered. The four men remained in custody as investigators continued to probe the deadliest smuggling episode on the southern border to date. The death toll from the tragedy is also slowly climbing as two more people died on Wednesday, June 29, since the discovery of the first dead bodies on Monday, June 27, near an auto salvage yard in San Antonio. Police were checking to see if the truck had mechanical problems when it was abandoned, the Daily Mail reported.

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According to Francisco Garduño, chief of Mexico's National Immigration Institute, the fatalities included 27 from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, 7 from Guatemala, and 2 from El Salvador. The Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office said officials had potential identifications on 37 of the victims as of Wednesday, pending verification with authorities from their respective countries. At least 40 of the victims were male. That said, investigators faced a tough time identifying the dead considering some were found with forged identification documents and a stolen ID in one case. Furthermore, some of the aliens came from remote parts of Mexico and Central America, which have no phone service to reach family members. Authorities are also seeking fingerprint data from the various governments involved.

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Officials noted how temperatures in San Antonio approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, and many who were rushed to the hospital were hot to the touch and severely dehydrated. Speaking to the Associated Press, Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor at Arizona State University who has researched hot vehicle deaths, said it wouldn't have taken long for the temperature inside the semi to reach deadly levels. She explained that the tractor-trailer was possibly hot even before anyone got inside due to the high humidity, lack of ventilation, and the sheer number of people stuffed inside.

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According to the US Attorney's Office in San Antonio, the driver Zamorano lives in suburban Houston and is originally from the Texas border city of Brownsville. Speaking to the New York Post, his estranged wife Jennifer Duncan said Zamorano "is a good man" despite his lengthy criminal history. She continued, "I'm in shock, I mean, I just don't even know what to say about it. I know he wouldn't do anything if he knew it was gonna harm anybody." The Post reported that Duncan and Zamorano split six months ago. "He goes out of his way to help anybody and everybody," she added of her ex. Zamorano is slated to have his first court appearance on Thursday, June 30.

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