Venezuelan Illegal Immigrants Charged In Murder Of 12-Year-Old Jocelyn Nungaray Held on High Bond

Franklin Peña, 26, and Johan Jose Martínez Rangel, 22, both Venezuelan nationals, have been charged with the capital murder of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray in Houston, Texas. Peña was recently held on a $10 million bond following a court appearance on Monday, highlighting the severity of the accusations against him.

The heartbreaking case began when Jocelyn’s body was discovered on June 17th beneath a bridge in north Houston. She was found with her wrists and feet bound, naked from the waist down, and showing multiple wounds. An autopsy later confirmed that her cause of death was strangulation.

Prosecutors detailed the events leading up to her death, revealing that Peña and Martínez Rangel spent several hours at the Ojos Locos restaurant before meeting Jocelyn.

Surveillance footage captured the three of them at a 7-Eleven gas station before walking to the bridge where the tragic incident occurred. According to the prosecution, Martínez Rangel attacked Jocelyn by grabbing her neck and covering her mouth, leading to her death.

After the crime, Martínez Rangel allegedly shaved his beard to evade identification, and both men sought funds to leave the state. They had entered the U.S. illegally from Venezuela and were previously released by border patrol near El Paso. At the time of his arrest, Peña was reportedly wearing an ankle monitor, which he tampered with either before or after the crime.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg explained that the suspects are not currently eligible for the death penalty under Texas law. The law has evolved to stipulate that the death penalty is applicable for victims under 10 years old, or in specific severe circumstances for victims aged 10 to 15. However, life without parole is the likely sentence for Peña and Martínez Rangel if convicted.

“Our laws treat the age of victims differently, and they’ve changed where they draw the line. The law was expanded to cover victims aged 10 to 15, but the death penalty was taken off the table by the legislature. Instead, life without parole would be the appropriate charge,” Ogg explained.

Ogg also indicated that if lab results confirm sexual assault, the eligibility for the death penalty could be reconsidered. Preliminary evidence suggests sexual assault, but confirmation is pending DNA analysis.

Peña’s high bond of $10 million underscores the gravity of the crime and the flight risk posed by the suspects. This case has drawn attention to issues within the immigration system, as both men had previously been detained and released by border authorities.

“Our immigration system is broken. If there was ever a case that reflected that, it’s this one,” Ogg remarked, expressing frustration over the circumstances that allowed the suspects to remain in the country.