The alleged driver of the Texas migrant death truck is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon on a human smuggling charge that could lead to his execution.
Hector Zamorano Jr., 45, is charged with a single count of transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison or death.
Zamorano was busted after running away from locals who found him hiding in brush near the scene of horror in San Antonio and pointed him out to cops, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.
Zamorano was reportedly “very high on meth” and Mexican authorities have said he tried to pass himself off as a migrant to avoid arrest in Monday’s incident, which led to the deaths of 53 of the migrants packed into the sweltering trailer.
Zamorano was identified through a distinctive, black shirt with stripes and a hat that matched surveillance footage from an immigration checkpoint he allegedly passed through earlier, according to the complaint.
A photo posted online Wednesday allegedly shows Zamorano grinning as he leaned out the driver’s window of the 18-wheeler at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Encinal, Texas, about three hours before he allegedly abandoned the truck in a remote area near the Lackland Air Force Base.
The trailer carried 64 migrants, 48 of whom were dead when authorities arrived at the scene, according to the complaint.
Zamorano is expected to appear in San Antonio federal court at 1:30 p.m. Central time, according to the San Antonio US Attorney’s Office.
An alleged accomplice, Christian Martinez, 28, was arrested Tuesday and charged with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death, which also carries the possibility of capital punishment, the feds said,
Martinez was busted based on evidence uncovered on Zamorano’s cell phone that showed they discussed the smuggling scheme, according to prosecutors.
A spokesperson for Western Texas US Attorney Ashley Hoff didn’t immediately respond Thursday when asked when Hoff would decide whether to seek capital punishment in the case.
Two Mexican citizens — Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48 — were also arrested Monday after they left the San Antonio house used as the address to register the truck.
D’Luna-Bilboa was allegedly caught with a handgun stashed in the center console of the truck he was driving and more guns were allegedly found inside the house.
Both men were charged with possession of a weapon by an alien illegally in the US, which carries a maximum, 10-year prison sentence.
They’re scheduled to appear in court for bail hearings on Friday.