ARIZONA NEWS

Migrant smuggler sentenced to 10 years after death of 23-year-old mother in Arizona

Jul 4, 2024, 5:45 AM

10 years in prison for man who smuggled noncitizens into the U.S....

A woman's remains were found on Fort Huachuca property, prosecutors said. (File photo by USDA Forest Service)

(File photo by USDA Forest Service)

PHOENIX — A Mexican man who smuggled noncitizens into Arizona was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday, authorities said.

Jesus Ernesto Dessens-Romero, 28, was part of an operation that left a migrant dead, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.

The victim was a 23-year-old woman who left behind a husband and daughter, prosecutors said.

She was one of three sisters who Dessens-Romero guided into the U.S. on foot in February 2021, prosecutors said. Two other Mexican citizens were in the group, including a 16-year-old.

Dessens-Romero led the group of five migrants into a perilous, rugged and remote route in the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona, prosecutors said.

“The group had limited food and water, and at night, suffered through serious weather conditions including cold and snow,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.

Man who smuggled noncitizens into the U.S. sentenced after migrant death

After around two days of the dangerous on-foot journey, the 23-year-old victim was unable to eat, walk or follow commands, prosecutors said.

Dessens-Romero told the group to leave her behind, claiming she was close enough to the road to be rescued by others.

Instead of calling emergency services, he led the rest of the group to Sierra Vista. There, smuggling co-conspirators brought the four survivors further into the U.S., prosecutors said.

The next day, the family of the victim reported she was missing. A search by U.S. Border Patrol, Fort Huachuca officials, Homeland Security Investigations and Cochise County Sheriff’s Department couldn’t find her.

“During this time, Dessens-Romero contacted the surviving sisters on behalf of the smuggling organization to try to convince them to remove a ‘missing person’ social media post,” prosecutors said.

Eventually, members of nonprofit SOS Búsqueda y Rescate found the victim’s skeletal remains on Fort Huachuca property, prosecutors said.

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Migrant smuggler sentenced to 10 years after death of 23-year-old mother in Arizona