FLORENCE, AZ - With five people in custody, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office continues to look for a sixth person allegedly involved in a human smuggling case in which one person died.
The case first came to the attention of investigators on July 7 with a 911 call from a truck stop along Interstate 10 and Picacho Peak.
The caller reported that when the driver and front seat passenger of a U-Haul box truck opened the back end of the truck several people inside appeared to be in medical distress and were “falling out and staggering” as they tried to get out of the truck.
When deputies arrived, they found several adult Hispanic males and females inside or near the truck and were told there were approximately 14-20 illegal immigrants in the truck when it stopped, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
All of the subjects said they’d paid $5,000 each to be brought to Phoenix and were loaded into the truck where many became dehydrated and overheated.
Three of the subjects were air-lifted to the hospital in critical condition, while five others were taken by ground ambulance to local hospitals.
One of the victims later died.
Witnesses told deputies an additional 5-6 people were seen walking east into the desert area.
Members of the U.S. Border Patrol responded and were able to located the outstanding subjects in the desert east of the U-Haul.
The driver, 25-year-old Nathan Lamb, and front seat passenger, 25-year-old Elizabeth Kay , were taken into custody and face charges of one count of 1st degree murder, one count of 2nd degree murder, six counts of kidnapping and six counts of human smuggling.
As the investigation progressed it became apparent this case involved a large scale human smuggling ring out of Mexico, according to PCSO.
A third arrest took place on July 17 when 48-year-old Yolanda Banda was taken into custody.
PCSO says 28-year-old Gerard Punch was arrested on July 18 and on August 13 Enrique Morales Velazquez, 53, was taken into custody in Phoenix.
The sixth suspect is still on the loose and has been identified as 39-year-old Gerald Alan Turner of Phoenix.
Authorities say Turner should be considered armed and dangerous and anyone who knows of his whereabouts should call 911.
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