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Two Men Charged With Murdering Witnesses, Including Pregnant Woman, To Thwart Drug Trafficking Investigation

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials on Tuesday charged two men with killing two witnesses, including a pregnant woman, for allegedly obstructing a drug trafficking investigation.

Authorities say drug trafficker Benjamin is accused of killing Cesar Armando Murillo, 44, of Washington state, and Mayra Sofia Hernandez, 33, who was six months pregnant at the time of their deaths. The identity of the suspect, Madrigal Birrueta, 22, has been released. possession of a machine gun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; according to Press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Additionally, authorities subsequently charged Ricardo Orizaba, 21, with being an accessory to murder. (Related article: Customs and Border Protection agents seize more than $9 million worth of drugs in one weekend)

“These executions are an attack on our justice system, designed to silence witnesses and instill fear,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “The duty to protect witnesses is paramount, and the United States will fully prosecute intimidation and violence aimed at obstructing the justice system.”

U.S. Coast Guard personnel unload a bundle of seized drugs in front of the Cutter Bertholf on September 10, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Authorities began investigating Madrigal-Villeta after drugs were seized from vehicles at ports of entry in the San Diego area between August and October 2021. Authorities allege that Madrigal Birrueta was responsible for drug imports and that he was the “leader of a criminal organization.” A violation of federal drug laws, according to a press release.

By August 2022, authorities were tracking the group “operating” in Yakima, Washington, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers interviewed Murillo and Hernandez, according to court filings. However, a few days after the meeting, Murillo and Hernandez were murdered and buried in the nearby high desert. HSI officials, with the help of local agencies, searched for the two victims for nearly a year before discovering their bodies on September 13, 2023, but autopsy reports showed the victims had multiple injuries to the head. He was pronounced dead from gunshot wounds.

“Court filings state that geophysicists, ground-penetrating radar, aircraft, laser imaging, soil chemical testing, multiple cadaver dogs and other law enforcement techniques were used to search for victims’ bodies. , the result of a thorough year-long investigation explains how these charges were made. “HSI special agents, with assistance from the Washington State Police Crime Scene Investigation Team, successfully recovered the remains on September 13, 2023,” the press release states.

In addition to the discovery of Murillo and Hernandez, the HSI investigation into Madrigal-Villeta's organization resulted in the seizure of “methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, multiple firearms, including machine guns, and body armor,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Federal courts in Washington state and California ordered Madrigal Virueta and Orizaba to be held pending trial.

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