Couple Caught With Child's Body At Mexican Border Kidnapped Her From Trafficking Victim, D.A. Says
Charges have been filed against a couple from Whittier who were arrested trying to cross the Mexican border with the body of a 2-year-old girl stashed in a duffel bag. Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, and Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, have been charged with murder, torture, human trafficking, and assault on a child causing death, according to a release from the L.A. County District Attorney's office. If convicted as charged, both face a sentence of life in prison.
On August 9, the couple was stopped when trying to cross the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on foot. After an X-ray revealed the grisly contents of their bag, customs agents stopped the couple. Becerra allegedly attempted to flee, but was soon caught. Investigators say the couple drowned the girl in Whittier, before attempting to transport her body to Mexico.
Prosecutors allege that the girl was the daughter of a woman who the couple had trafficked from November 2012 until August 2016. Becerra and Hartley are accused of kidnapping the girl and abusing her from January 1 until her death, KTLA reports.
According to Detective Kevin Acebedo of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, the child's mother is alive, Whittier Daily News reports.
Arrest records show that this is not Becerra and Hartley's first brush with the law. According to 10 News, Becerra spent six months in jail for the sale and transport of an illegal substance in 1992, while Hartley has been arrested numerous times and convicted of drug possession and involuntary manslaughter.