Couple found with girl's body in duffel bag arraigned next week - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Couple found with girl's body in duffel bag arraigned next week

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Arraignment was rescheduled Friday to next week for a Whittier couple initially charged in San Diego County with the torture-murder of a 2-year-old girl whose body was found in a duffel bag as they were attempting to cross the border into Mexico.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office took over the prosecution of Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, and Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, as authorities believe the toddler died in Whittier.

Becerra made her initial appearance this afternoon in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom and was ordered held in lieu of $3.2 million bail pending arraignment on Tuesday.

Hartley was a "miss-out," but officials did not say why he wasn't brought to court. He, too, is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

The defendants face one felony count each of murder, torture and assault on a child causing death. The victim is identified in the criminal complaint only as "Angelina W." The two are also charged with human trafficking to commit pimping or pandering involving the toddler's mother.

Becerra and Hartley trafficked the woman between November 2012 and August 2016, seized her daughter, severely abused the child and killed the girl on or about Aug. 9, prosecutors allege.

Becerra and Lewis entered Tijuana in a pedestrian lane Aug. 9, and Becerra ran off as Mexican customs agents approached the pair, San Diego police said. Authorities chased and caught her and took her companion into custody.

The girl's body was discovered during an X-ray examination of the bag Hartley had been carrying, authorities said.

San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals previously said the child died in a residential drowning, with contributing causes of malnutrition and dehydration.

If convicted as charged, the two could each face up to life in state prison.


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