Man and woman arrested at Mexico border with body of 2-year-old girl in duffel bag

Posted at 3:12 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-10 15:14:13-04

SAN DIEGO, Ca. – A man and a woman from a Los Angeles suburb were arrested on suspicion of murder after attempting to enter Mexico with the body of a 2-year-old girl inside a duffel bag, San Diego police said Wednesday.

Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, and Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, were arrested midday Tuesday. The pair were trying to cross the pedestrian bridge into Tijuana from San Ysidro, according to the San Diego police Lt. Ray Valentin.

Police were contacted about noon by Mexican law enforcement, who reported that Hartley and Becerra had been stopped by customs agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

When they were stopped, Becerra allegedly fled, and Hartley was taken into custody with a duffel bag.

“An X-ray of the duffel bag revealed a body inside,” the police news release stated.

The body of a girl who was about 2-years-old was in the bag, police said.

The couple is not the girl’s parents, San Diego police told  Fox5 San Diego.

The pair, both from Whittier, California, were trying to cross the border in the pedestrian lane, police said.

Becerra was soon taken into custody by Mexican authorities, and the pair were turned over to U.S. investigators. Both were interviewed by homicide detectives and booked into San Diego County jails.

“It has been determined that this incident may have occurred in Whittier,” the San Diego police release said.

San Diego police were working with the Whittier Police Department.

Whittier police spokesman Officer John Scroggins said his department was not commenting and was referring calls for details to San Diego police.

Inmate records show Hartley was booked about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday into San Diego Central Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and child cruelty. He was due for arraignment Friday.

Becerra was booked into the Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility in Santee about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday on suspicion of the same charges. Her arraignment was also scheduled for Friday.

Whittier is about 120 miles north of the Mexico border, and east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles.