Attorney: Teen Driver Threatened into Smuggling

Posted: Apr 16, 2012 11:56 AM
Updated: Apr 16, 2012 12:21 PM

EDINBURG - A 15-year-old boy was charged in connection with a crash in Palmview that killed nine illegal immigrants.

Authorities said the teenager, a La Joya ISD student, was driving the van carrying the group. He's charged with nine counts of murder and 17 counts of illegal smuggling. Palmview police said the teenager didn't even have a learner's permit to drive.

During a press conference with Palmview police, it was revealed the teen has a criminal past. Investigators said the teen was visibly upset, when he was brought in for questioning. He made a statement. Police said he wanted to come clean.

With bracelets on his ankles and tears in his eyes, the suspected smuggler went before the judge. The teenager's attorney told the judge the 15-year-old was smuggling humans, because his family was threatened. The attorney didn't say who made the threats.

The judge decided there was enough probable cause for the case to move forward. The teenager's not scheduled to appear in court again until May 3. He'll be held in the juvenile justice center in Edinburg and will undergo psychological evaluation.

His family and lawyer did not talk to the media after the hearing.

Meanwhile, some families of the people killed in the wreck have been located. All nine Mexican nationals killed in the accident were identified Friday. The Mexican Consulate located some of the families. The Palmview police chief is working to release the list of victims' names later today.

Also, Palmview and Mission officers are gathering the last bit of information needed to reconstruct last Tuesday night's wreck. We should know how it happened in the next few days.

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