SAN DIEGO — In a case prosecutors and defense attorneys agree “covers novel questions of fact and law,” two Tijuana men have been indicted on drug trafficking and hostage-taking charges in connection with the killing of a San Diego teenager in Mexico.
According to prosecutors, the 19-year-old victim, who was identified only by his initials, stole drugs that he was supposed to smuggle from Mexico into the United States. In response, the alleged drug traffickers kidnapped the teen from a Tijuana hotel at gunpoint and took him hostage in an effort to extort his parents.
Shortly thereafter, the alleged kidnappers cut off contact with the family. The victim has not been seen or heard from since May 30, 2020, and is presumed dead.
A federal grand jury handed down an indictment against the Tijuana residents, 21-year-old Wyatt Valencia-Pacheco and 22-year-old Jonathan Emmanuel Montellano-Mora, in June. The indictment was unsealed last week.
It accuses the duo of intentional killing while engaged in drug trafficking, a charge punishable by a minimum of 20 years in federal prison, and two charges that carry minimum life sentences: hostage taking resulting in death and conspiracy to take hostages resulting in death.
All three charges also carry the possibility of the death penalty.
Valencia-Pacheco, who also goes by “Jacob Herrera” and “JC HF,” is in custody, and a federal magistrate judge on Friday declined to release him on bond. Montellano-Mora, who also goes by “Che Cho” and “Chori,” remains a fugitive.
At least one additional “joint offender,” listed in the indictment by only his initials, has been arrested and charged as a juvenile.
In a court filing this week submitted by prosecutors and Valencia-Pacheco’s attorney’s, the sides agreed the case will be complex, dealing with “rarely-litigated offenses,” and should not be subject to normal rules that guarantee a speedy trial.
“Defendant is charged with activity that covers novel questions of fact and law,” the court filing read. “Specifically, Defendant is charged for his role in a drug-related conspiracy to hold the victim hostage and murder. All events occurred outside the United States. These types of charges are rarely used with these types of facts.”