2 capital murder suspects were arrested by Border Patrol and released before Texas girl's death: ICE

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Friday, June 21, 2024
Suspects were arrested by Border Patrol before girl's murder, ICE says
The men accused in Jocelyn Nungaray's murder were arrested by Border Patrol for being in the U.S. illegally, but then released, within the last few months, ICE says.

HOUSTON, Texas -- The two capital murder suspects charged in 12-year-old Texas girl Jocelyn Nungaray's death were arrested within the last few months by U.S. Border Patrol, but then released, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Johan Jose Martinez Rangel, 22, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, both Venezuelan nationals, were in the U.S. illegally, ICE said, adding that they didn't know when or where they entered the country.

According to the agency, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended Martinez near El Paso on March 14. That same day, he was released on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear.

U.S. Border Patrol arrested Pena on May 28, also near El Paso, Texas. On the same day he was apprehended, Pena was also given the same order to appear in court at a later date.

Both men remain in the Harris County Jail.

According to court documents, the men lured Jocelyn under a bridge where they kept her for over two hours, took her pants off, tied her up and killed her before throwing her body in the bayou.

Jocelyn was discovered in a Greenspoint creek in Houston on Monday.

In an update from officials on Thursday afternoon, Lt. Stephen Hope said surveillance video and other evidence helped them identify the suspects.

Hope said the two men started their evening at a restaurant together. They then left the restaurant on foot and were walking southbound, which is when they were first seen on camera.

HPD released those images on Tuesday.

The suspects were later seen meeting with Jocelyn and talking for a few minutes on Kuykendahl Road. Later, Martinez and Pena, along with Jocelyn, walked to a convenience store.

ABC13 obtained surveillance images that appear to show 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray's last moments alive before her body was found in a creek in north Houston on June 17, 2024.
ABC13 obtained surveillance images that appear to show 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray's last moments alive before her body was found in a creek in north Houston on June 17, 2024.

After a few minutes, all three of them walked to a bridge, which is where HPD said the 12-year-old was murdered.

Martinez and Pena then continued walking to their residence, leaving Jocelyn behind.

After days of investigating, on Thursday, authorities arrested the two men at 13355 Northborough Drive at the Canfield Lakes Apartment. They were detained and taken in for questioning. Meanwhile, crews remained at the apartment complex looking for additional evidence of the crime, which was found, but police would not immediately release those details.

Brenis Lopez, who lives at the complex, said he pointed out the suspects' apartment to police.

He said the men were construction workers.

Lopez also said one of the suspects attempted to run from police.

Jocelyn's body was found Monday off West Rankin Road near the North Freeway, walking distance from where she lives, after investigators believe she snuck out of her home around 10 p.m. on Sunday. Her mother last saw her when she went to bed, according to police.

Houston police said surveillance images of that evening helped lead them to the suspects. Police said both men were seen walking with the young girl in the area where she would later be found dead.

Despite the two men's arrest, authorities are still asking for the public's help with any information.

"We are still asking for more help from the public for anybody who might have seen something or might know something, however small, to reach out to us," acting HPD Chief Larry Satterwhite said.

Mayor John Whitmire also took a moment to address the community for their help but also mentioned all eyes are on the court system now.

"We're gonna be watching you. The rest have taken place, and the charges have been filed. Now, we want the justice system to do its job. If there was ever a circumstance where you do not give someone bail, this is it," Whitmire said. "There are circumstances allowed if you can prevent bail. Take in consideration flight risk. Take in consideration the severity of this crime. So I'm gonna be monitoring the court system. I want these suspects to have their day in court. I want them to be held accountable and I want it done sooner than later."

On Wednesday, ABC13 Houston spoke to Jocelyn's grandmother, who said, "We really want justice for her. We are asking for everyone's help."

She describes her as an incredibly kind and loving girl. The family recently came back from their annual vacation at Garner State Park.

Later in the day, ABC13 spoke to the girl's mother.

"She's meant to be here. She's supposed to be here," Alexis Nungaray said. "She had aspirations for life. She loved everyone, was so kind. Greatest friend. Very goofy."

Alexis Nungaray doesn't believe her daughter knew the men caught on surveillance camera.

"She's not one to be aggressive and be like, 'Stop talking to me,'" she said. "She is very shy and quiet and keeps to herself. I felt like she maybe didn't want to be rude, and that's why she was pacing back and forth and safely get away from the situation. She unfortunately got caught with the wrong people at the wrong time."

Jocelyn was reportedly talking to her 13-year-old boyfriend on the phone around midnight when he heard her talking with two adults.

Alexis Nungaray added that she tracked her daughter's phone to a nearby skatepark when she realized she was missing.

Billie Jackson was driving home from dropping her husband off from work on Monday morning when she says she made the disturbing discovery.

"I drove past, and when I looked up the creek, I thought it was a mannequin. I did a U-turn, and I stopped on the bridge, put my flashers on, looked down, and realized it was someone. I parked right here and called 911 immediately," she said.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences determined Jocelyn died by strangulation.

Authorities urge anyone with information about the girl's death to contact Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS (8477).