San Diego-Born Teen Cartel Killer ‘Ponchis’ Freed From Mexico, To Leave For U.S.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
MEXICO CITY — A teenage U.S. citizen who acknowledged being a drug-cartel killer has finished his three-year juvenile-offender term for homicide, kidnapping and drug and weapons possession.
The interior secretary of southern Morelos state, Jorge Messeguer, told Milenio television the teen has been released and taken to an airport to be sent to the United States, where he has family.
Jorge Messeguer said Edgar Jimenez Lugo would apparently go to a facility, "one of these centers for support, for aid" in San Antonio, Texas. His office did not immediately respond to requests for further information.
It does not appear that Jimenez Lugo faces any charges in the United States. The U.S. Embassy said it would not publicly discuss the case due to privacy considerations.
The embassy said in a statement it was "closely coordinating with our Mexican counterparts and appropriate authorities in the United States" regarding his release.
Jimenez was popularly known in Mexico as "Ponchis," which roughly translates as "husky," a nickname a relative has said his family gave him because he was a pudgy child.
In 2011 at the age of 14, Jimenez Lugo confessed to killing four people whose beheaded bodies were found suspended from a bridge.
He was born in San Diego, but was raised in Mexico by his grandmother. Authorities said Jimenez Lugo said he had been forcibly recruited by drug traffickers when he was 11, and confessed to working for the South Pacific drug cartel, led by reputed drug lord Hector Beltran Leyva.
He had been trying to return to the United States when he was detained in 2010.
He and a sister were arrested in Morelos state, south of Mexico City, as they tried to board a plane to Tijuana, where they planned to cross the border and reunite with their mother in San Diego. When he was handed over to federal prosecutors, the boy calmly said in front of cameras that he participated in four killings while drugged and under threat. The bodies were found in the tourist city of Cuernavaca, which is in Morelos.
He served his three-year sentence, the maximum allowable in the juvenile system, at a juvenile detention center in Morelos.
Morelos state was formerly controlled by the Beltran Leyva gang, which broke up after alleged leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines in 2009.
Because Jimenez Lugo's case was so highly publicized, some Mexican activists, such as members of the Network for Children's Rights, expressed concern for his safety after he was released and suggested he might need special protection or a new identity.