The western Iowa sheriff who first investigated the grisly deaths of 11 illegal immigrants found three years ago in a rail car near Denison says it’s a case that “cries out” for justice. The man many believe is responsible for the deaths had agreed to plead guilty, but Juan Fernando Licea-Cedillo surprised everyone in a Texas courtroom on Monday when he withdrew that guilty plea and asked for a trial.
Crawford County Sheriff Tom Hogan just heard about that turn of events earlier today (Tuesday). “The only thing I would echo is that whoever is responsible for the deaths of those 11 people needs to be punished to the full extent of the law,” Hogan says. “Locking anybody in a railroad car like that under those conditions is horrific and it just goes to show you at what lengths people will go to smuggle themselves across the border.”
Hogan says he’s not at all surprised the culprit is trying to get out of a life prison sentence for his crime. “Certainly, it’s a very serious case and I understand at one point the death penalty was even in play in this case and thought that they had settled on life in prison,” Hogan says. “I can see where someone would be concerned about spending that much time (in prison) but I think if there was ever a case I’ve been involved with that cried out for justice, this is it.”
A former Union Pacific train conductor is also to go on trial for selling information so Liceo-Cedillo would know when to put immigrants on the rail cars headed north.