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Autopsy determines 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died from sepsis while in US custody

Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 30, 2019

An autopsy report released Friday has revealed the cause of death of the 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who died after being taken into US Customs and Border Protection custody late last year.

Jakelin Caal Maquin died from a bacterial infection known as streptococcal sepsis, according to the autopsy report from the medical examiner's office in El Paso County, Texas. The report says streptococcus bacteria was found in the girl's lungs, adrenal gland, liver and spleen. It goes on to say the infection was "rapidly progressive," which led to "multiple organ dysfunction and death."

Jakelin died in December, two days after she and her father, Nery Gilberto Caal, 29, were detained by US Customs and Border Protection.

The law offices of Lynn Coyle, who represents Jakelin's family, released a statement saying it will continue to ask for an independent investigation of her death.

"While the report sheds light on Jakelin's cause of death, it still leaves many questions that require further review," the statement said. "The report's findings suggest that Jakelin's chances of surviving would have been improved with earlier medical intervention. As we requested back in December of last year, the family seeks a thorough independent investigation of this matter to learn why medical intervention was delayed."

The autopsy does not indicate how or when Jakelin caught the infection.

CNN reached out to the CBP for comment, and was given a news release about the young girl's death from December that said CBP agents and emergency responders "did everything in their power" to treat Jakelin, including Border Patrol agents twice reviving the girl before she was taken by air ambulance to a hospital.

"The agents involved are deeply affected and empathize with the father over the loss of his daughter," the release read.

One death, two conflicting stories

Jakelin's family says she fled the country with her father in search of a better life. She survived the 2,000-mile journey from northern Guatemala before being detained.

The family's attorneys said Caal and his daughter were seeking asylum in the United States. Jakelin's father has requested a credible fear interview -- the first step in seeking asylum, Coyle said.

According to CBP, Jakelin and her father crossed the border illegally about half a mile west of the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico. They were detained along with 163 other migrants on December 6.

The family's attorneys say Jakelin and her father were not given water during the roughly eight hours they were detained at Antelope Wells waiting to be taken to a Border Patrol station. However, CBP says migrants "had access to food, water and restrooms" while they were detained and awaiting transfer.

CBP says an initial health screening on Jakelin "revealed no evidence of health issues," and that her father reported she was "in good health," the agency said in a statement.

The agency said Jakelin's father first reported the girl's illness and vomiting when they were already on the bus, but before the bus left.

But attorneys for the family say they sought relief from the first Border Patrol agents they encountered near Antelope Wells. Attorney Enrique Moreno said Jakelin's father reported that she was sick and vomiting.

During the 90-minute bus ride from Antelope Wells to the Lordsburg Border Patrol station, her health deteriorated. CBP said Jakelin was revived twice when emergency responders tended to her at the Lordsburg station. Her temperature at the time, the agency said, was 105.7 degrees. She was flown to the Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso and died the next day.

Jakelin's body was repatriated to Guatemala in December after being transported by plane from Laredo, Texas. Her remains were transported to the indigenous community of Raxruha, where she was from.