The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that the alleged murderers of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray initially entered the country illegally at El Paso, where they were arrested by U.S. Border Patrol and released into the country. 

Franklin Pena, 26, and Johan Jose Martinez Rangle, 22, allegedly lured the young victim under a bridge in Houston after she reportedly snuck out of her home at night. The two then stripped off her clothes below the waist and assaulted her for two hours before dumping her body in a bayou.  

Both predators are illegal aliens who allegedly entered the country in El Paso at different times. NewsNation Network Correspondent Ali Bradley posted on X that “Multiple DHS sources confirm the suspects in the murder of 12 y/o Jocelyn Nungaray are here illegally from Venezuela with pending court cases—One of them entered just 23 days ago.

“Franklin Ramos Pena crossed jnto [sic] the country illegally through El Paso on 5/28/2024 in a large group. He has a pending court hearing July 9, 2024 in Houston—His sponsor he listed is also in Houston,” she continued. “Johan Jose Rangel Martinez was apprehended in El Paso in March 14, 2024. He has a pending court date of August 29, 2024 in San Antonio.”

According to a Houston Police Department press release, Nungaray’s body—which had been found floating in the water—was reported to authorities around 6:15 a.m. on June 17. 

“HPD patrol officers responded to a person down call at the above address and found the body of a female in a shallow creek. She was pronounced deceased at the scene,” the news release says. 

Per reports by investigators, strangulation was determined to be the cause of death. 

Pena and Martinez Rangle were identified as suspects and subsequently arrested without resistance at an apartment complex on Thursday, June 20, as a result of a collaborative effort by the PD Northbelt Patrol Division Crime Suppression Team, SWAT team, and the Gang and Homicide Divisions. Prosecutors revealed today that Nangaray fought for her life during the incident—leaving scratch and bite marks on one of the accused murderers.   

Though both suspects were previously denied bond, Pena’s bond was set to $10 million on Monday, and Martinez Rangle’s bond was set to the same amount earlier today. The defense reportedly requested a $1 million bond while the prosecution requested a $5 million bond. Both suspects were believed to be flight risks. 

State District Judge Josh Hill had set the high numbers after the prosecution alleged they found evidence on Martinez Rangel’s phone suggesting that he was planning to leave the country. 

Though both Pena and Martinez Rangel face capital murder charges, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg suggested that they currently are not eligible for execution based solely on the age of the victim. 

According to Texas law, the death penalty is not sought in cases of solely murder of a child aged 10 to 15 years old. Because Nungaray was 12 years old, she would fall into this category, according to Ogg. However, once lab results are confirmed, that could change if the suspects are found to be guilty of sexual assault and rape. 

“Our laws treat the age of victims differently, and they’ve changed where they draw the line. Used to be children under six. If they were murdered, that created an underlying offense that would support the death penalty and capital murder. That law was expanded to 10 years old and under, and then further expanded from 10 to 15,” said Ogg. 

“If the victim was 10 to 15 years old, yet the death penalty was taken off the table by the legislature, and instead they suggested that life without parole would be the appropriate charge. But age is not the only consideration in this case or any case, the underlying actions of the criminals. This victim was found, you know, bound and without clothing from the waist down in the water. And we just think that there’s a good possibility. We hope that there’s evidence that remains to be tested,” she continued. 

However, Gov. Greg Abbott has a different opinion. “Kill kids in Texas; you get the death penalty,” he posted on X. “That little girl would be alive today if Biden enforced immigration laws at the border.”

Will Biagini

Will was born in Louisiana and raised in a military family. He currently serves as a journalist with Texas Scorecard. Previously, he was a senior correspondent for Campus Reform.

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