LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Whittier couple charged 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 will be arraigned Friday on felony charges including torture and murder.
According to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, and Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, were charged last week with one felony count each of murder, torture and assault on a child causing death involving the toddler.
Becerra and Hartley were also charged with human trafficking to commit pimping or pandering involving the girl’s mother.
The toddler was identified in the criminal complaint as “Angelina W.”
According to prosecutors, the couple allegedly trafficked a woman between Nov. 2012 and Aug. 2016, seized her daughter, severely abused the child and killed her around Aug. 9.
Authorities believe the toddler died in Whittier in a residential drowning, with contributing causes of malnutrition and dehydration.
The girl’s body was discovered during an X-ray examination of the duffel bag, which was seized after Becerra and Hartley ran from Mexican customs agents, according to the San Diego Police Department.
San Diego County prosecutors initially charged the pair with the girl’s murder, but the case was dismissed Wednesday.
If convicted as charged, Becerra and Hartley could each face up to life in state prison.
(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)