Woman faces murder charge in deadly human smuggling case
Yolanda Banda (Source: Pinal County Sheriff's Office)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -
A woman has been arrested on a murder charge in the death of an illegal immigrant who died in a human smuggling operation she allegedly orchestrated.
According to the probable cause statement, Pinal County sheriff's deputies were called to the Picacho Peak Dairy Queen by witnesses who reported seeing several people "falling out" of the back of a U-Haul moving van.
Deputies made contact with 12 illegal immigrants and the U.S. Border Patrol took nine of the people into custody and the other three were taken by medical helicopter to local hospitals for severe heat-related injuries.
Witnesses saw a man and woman get out of the front of the U-Haul. They were identified as Nathan Lamb and Elizabeth Key and they told deputies they were approached by a man on July 6 in North Phoenix who asked them to drive a rented U-Haul to Douglas, pick up people and take them back to Phoenix in exchange for money. They said the man gave them map of the route to avoid U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.
According to the report, when they were near the Tucson area the people in the back of the van began to bang on the walls, telling the driver it was hot and they needed water.
PCSO said one of the people in the back of the van died on July 9 at University Medical Center in Tucson from heat-related injuries.
Detectives issued a search warrant at the U-Haul rental on July 12 and found a rental contract signed by Yolanda Banda, of Glendale, and a gas receipt in Douglas with Banda's credit card. Detectives learned Banda and her boyfriend, Gerad Punch, were smuggling illegal immigrants using rented U-Haul trucks.
Banda was arrested on Wednesday night at her home on North 19th Avenue in Phoenix.
Banda faces one count of second-degree murder, one count of human smuggling and one count of unlawful transport.
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