The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Phoenix Police Department, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations in Douglas now have five suspects in custody for murder and are looking for a sixth suspect who has a warrant for his arrest for murder.
The case began on Sunday, July 7th, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.when the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call from an individual at the “Bowlins Travel Center” located at 16543 East Camino Adelante (I-10 and Picacho Peak). The caller reported to dispatchers and later to deputies on scene, a U-Haul box truck had stopped at this location.
When the driver and front seat passenger opened the backend of the box truck, several subjects were inside and they appeared to be in medical distress as they were “falling out and staggering” as they attempted to get out.
When deputies arrived on scene, they observed several adult Hispanic males and females who were standing, sitting, and or lying nearby or inside of the U-Haul truck. The individuals told deputies, there were approximately 14-20 illegal immigrants in the truck when it stopped. All of them were picked up in Douglas, Arizona by a white male subject who was driving the U-Haul and a white or Hispanic female subject who was the front seat passenger.
All of the subjects stated they had paid $5000 each for transportation to Phoenix. After each individual paid for their ride, they were loaded into the truck. During transportation many of the occupants became severely dehydrated and overheated due to the extreme heat and inhumane conditions in the locked U-Haul truck.
Witness accounts indicated several of the occupants of the U-Haul stayed by the vehicle after it parked at the travel center due to medical conditions ranging from dehydration and fatigue to heat stroke causing vomiting, loss of bowel control, and unconsciousness.
Emergency Medical Personnel arrived on scene and worked with deputies to render aid. Three of the subjects were in critical condition and had to be taken by air ambulance to a hospital, five of the subjects were transported by ground ambulance to local hospitals.
A total of 8 subjects were initially located at the scene. Witnesses advised an additional 5-6 subjects were seen walking east into the desert area.
Members of the U.S. Border Patrol responded to assist in locating the individuals.
They were able to locate the outstanding subjects in the desert east of the U-Haul. All of the individuals located in the desert were transported to the Casa Grande Border Patrol station to be interviewed.
The driver of the U-Haul truck and the front seat passenger were taken in custody. The driver, Nathan Lamb (age 25 of Phoenix) and the passenger his girlfriend Elizabeth Kay (age 25 of Phoenix) both were initially booked into the Pinal County Adult Detention Center for numerous counts of Human Smuggling, Aggravated Assault and Endangerment.
Both Lamb and Kay admitted to detectives they transported the illegal immigrants from Douglas and they were headed to Phoenix. While driving they heard “pounding and banging” from inside of the cargo area. They didn’t stop right away because they were afraid they would be seen.
When they did stop, they saw how bad of shape some of the individuals were in and thought they were going to die. Lamb and Kay were scared so they fled the scene.
On Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 shortly after midnight, PCSO Homicide detectives were notified by the hospital staff, the victim who was on life support had passed away. An autopsy was conducted and the cause of death was determined to be “hyperthermia” as a result of the extreme heat inside of the U-Haul. It was estimated to be over 180 degrees inside.
Nathan Lamb and Kay each had their charges changed to 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 more apparent through evidence this case involved a large scale human smuggling ring out of Mexico.The case was investigated by detectives from the PCSO Anti-Smuggling Unit who took the lead and were assisted by ourHomicide Unit and Robbery Unit.
The third arrest in the case occurred on July 17th, 2013 in the area of I-17 and Peoria. PCSO Homicide detectives enlisted the help of the Phoenix Police Department who took Yolanda Banda, 48, into custody.
Banda was booked for one count of 1st Degree Murder one count of 2nd Degree Murder, six counts Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping and six counts Conspiracy to Commit Human Smuggling.
The forth arrest in the case occurred on July 18th, 2013 in the area of I-17 and Glendale. Phoenix Police Department arrested Gerad Punch,28. Punch was booked for one count of 1st Degree Murder one count of 2nd Degree Murder, six counts Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping and six counts Conspiracy to Commit Human Smuggling.
The fifth arrest in the case occurred on August 13th, 2013 in the area of I-17 and Peoria. Phoenix Police Department arrested Enrique Morales Velazquez, 53 who is a mexican national.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is asking for help from the public to locate the sixth suspect who has been identified as Gerald Alan Turner ,39. There is an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest for murder. He is to be considered armed and dangerous.
If anybody has any information regarding his location they are asked to call 9-1-1.
Sheriff Paul Babeu stated, “I am grateful for the assistance of the Phoenix Police Department, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations in Douglas as this investigation continues to unfold. This case is once again another example of what will continue to occur until President Obama and his administration get truly serious about border security. The cartels from Mexico and those who work with them don’t care about human life but rather they are more concerned with making money and distributing their drugs and humans throughout our Country.”