A Border Patrol agent looks out a water drain tunnel that runs from Mexico Photo by Josh Denmark/CPB
A Border Patrol agent looks out a water drain tunnel that runs from Mexico Photo by Josh Denmark/CPB

A Whittier couple who initially were charged in San Diego County in connection with the discovery of a 2-year-old girl’s body in a duffel bag as they were crossing the border into Mexico were set to be arraigned Friday in Los Angeles on murder, torture and other charges, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, and Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, were charged in Los Angeles County last week with one felony count each of murder, torture and assault on a child causing death involving the girl, identified in the criminal complaint only as “Angelina W.”

The two are also charged with human trafficking to commit pimping or pandering involving the girl’s mother.

Becerra and Hartley allegedly trafficked a woman between November 2012 and August 2016, seized the woman’s daughter, severely abused the child and killed the girl on or about Aug. 9, according to Los Angeles County prosecutors.

Authorities have said they believe the toddler died in Whittier.

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 had said the child died in a residential drowning, with contributing causes of malnutrition and dehydration.

San Diego County prosecutors had initially charged the two with the girl’s murder, but that case was dismissed Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

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

–City News Service 

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