Missing Honduran Woman’s Body Found near Sullivan City
NEAR SULLIVAN CITY – A family is mourning after hours of searching for their loved one led to an unwanted outcome.
Maria Ermerita Portillo Lopez, 21, was found dead lying underneath a brushy area around 1 p.m. Tuesday in Sullivan City.
Daisy Portillo, Lopez's cousin, flew in on Friday after Lopez was reported missing by family.
She said Lopez’s journey started in Honduras earlier this month. The last time family heard of her whereabouts was from her suspected smuggler.
Portillo said the smuggler told them he left Lopez behind after she fell ill.
An audio recording captured the suspected human smuggler giving Lopez's family the exact directions of her whereabouts on a ranch in Sullivan City.
"Near the river, there's an aerostat near Sullivan City, which has a camera on top. At the bottom of the blimp, to the left and right hand side, there are two barns. There's a red barn and a barn full of old tractors. You're going to tell Border Patrol that there's going to be two hills with no grass. In between the two hills, that's where the lady stayed," he said.
Law enforcement and community members of Sullivan City spent hours searching for Lopez. CHANNEL 5 NEWS reporter Carolina Cruz and photojournalist Sam Gauna accompanied the rescue team on Tuesday.
Sullivan City Police Chief Richard Ozuna said type of ruthless behavior is routine for human smugglers.
“When the smugglers come through here, you [immigrants] keep up with them. If you don't keep up with them, they leave you behind,” he said.
As long as a better quality of life isn’t attainable on this side of the border, Ozuna said people will keep taking drastic measures to get to the U.S.
He said stories like Lopez’s showcase the dangers people who journey into the U.S. illegally face.
Although Starr County Sheriff’s deputies said they found identification in one of Lopez’s pockets, an investigation is underway to confirm the identity of the body.
Authorities said there’s a 10 percent chance in cases like these that the DNA will come up as a negative match.
An autopsy was also be ordered to determine the cause of death.