Toddler's body found in duffel bag at San Ysidro border

Posted at 1:25 PM, Aug 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-11 03:54:12-04

SAN DIEGO – A dead 2-year-old girl was found in a duffel bag belonging to a man and woman who were trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border south into Tijuana Tuesday.

According to San Diego police, the child's body was found sometime before noon by Mexican law enforcement at the El Chaparral port of entry during an X-ray scan. When Mexican authorities attempted to detain the couple, the woman fled. The man was arrested at the scene and the woman was caught and detained a short time later. Both were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

After being interviewed by SDPD homicide detectives, 39-year-old Johnny Lewis Hartley and 43-year-old Mercy Mary Becerra, both of Whittier, Calif., were each booked into the San Diego Central Jail on one count of murder.

Authorities say Hartley and Becerra are not related to the child.

Investigators believe the child's death occurred in Whittier, a suburb of Los Angeles. San Diego police are working with the Whittier Police Department on the case.

Anyone with information on this incident is urged to call San Diego police at 888-580-8477.

Team 10 examines suspects' criminal past

Court records show Johnny Hartley has been to prison three times for crimes committed in Orange County. Some of those crimes are violent.

In 2010, Hartley was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and murder, along with several other charges. In a plea deal, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison for possession of a firearm and for being a member of a criminal street gang.

In 2005, Hartley was convicted for drug possession with the intent to sell. His sentence was two and a half years.

Hartley was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 1999. He was sentenced to 2 years, 8 months in prison.

Becerra also spent time behind bars. In 1992, she was sentenced to 6 months in jail for the sale and transport of an illegal substance. She also has several misdemeanors and infractions, but nothing serious on her record.

Court records show the couple was evicted from a property in Orange County in 1999.

Becerra was a licensed security guard from 2004 to 2006, according to the website for the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

There were no disciplinary actions against the license, and it was canceled in 2006, but the website did not say why.