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Friday, July 02, 2004

The Telegraph - Illegal alien charged with three counts of reckless homicide

The Telegraph

Migrant worker found to be illegal alien
MAGGIE BORMAN , The Telegraph 07/02/2004
A migrant worker charged with three counts of reckless homicide in a June van crash in Calhoun County has been found to be an illegal alien.

"We were able to determine the defendant, Damian Cruz, had false documentation. His green card was false, as well as his Social Security card," said Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Montenegro said department officials have not been able to determine whether the passengers in Cruz’s vehicle had legal status.

The June 8 crash claimed the lives of brothers Bladimir and Uriel Roblero, 24 and 22, respectively, and Amadeo Tlaxcala, 30. A fourth passenger, Alfredo Salazar, 23, remains in St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, where he was listed as in good condition Thursday morning.

Cruz, 22, remains in the Calhoun County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bond, with a continued preliminary hearing set for Aug. 3.

The three counts of reckless homicide, each a Class 3 felony, allege Cruz was driving a 1992 GMC van east on Mississippi River Road at 11:15 p.m. June 8 when it went off the right side of the road, hit an embankment and utility pole and rolled over, ejecting Salazar and the Roblero brothers. The Roblero brothers died at the scene, as did Tlaxcala. Salazar was flown to St. John’s via Arch Air Medical Service in critical condition. Cruz was taken to Jersey Community Hospital in Jerseyville with minor injuries.

The Illinois State Police, who are continuing to investigate the accident, reported none of the passengers was wearing a seat belt and that it still was unknown whether Cruz, whom the police said had been drinking, was wearing his seat belt.

Montenegro said Thursday that Cruz is from Toluca, the capital city of the Mexican state of Estado de Mexico.

Hanks-Gubser Funeral Home director Phil Gress, whom Montenegro said handled the transfer of the deceased victims from the funeral home in Hardin, said the deceased were sent back to Mexico last week. Gress said the Roblero brothers were from the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico, and Tlaxcala was from the southeastern Mexican state of Veracruz.

Montenegro said all of the migrants were working at Sharecropper Farm in Golden Eagle.

Officials with the Illinois State Police District 18 in Litchfield said Cruz had a driver’s license.

"Usually, the first thing illegal aliens do is to procure false documentation and with the documentation -- false though it is -- get a driver’s license," Montenegro said.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of Homeland Security will pursue federal charges against Cruz, Montenegro said Thursday. However, it might be a long while before federal charges are filed.

"We haven’t filed federal charges yet, as it is customary for our department to wait for the state’s case to conclude. We wait for the defendant to go through the state case, and, if found guilty, he could be in custody several years. If found guilty and sentenced, we allow the criminal to finish his or her sentence, then file a detainer and file the federal charges."

Calhoun County State’s Attorney Charles Burch Sr. is handling the case for the state, and Eric Pistorius of Jerseyville has been appointed public defender.

Coroner’s inquests are to be scheduled in the three deaths.

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