Two Honduran teenagers killed in Tijuana are being remembered by their friends as young people who worried about whether their families would be proud of them and boys who had their whole lives ahead of them.
Baja California chief prosecutor Jorge Alvarez said the bodies of the two adolescents were found beaten, strangled and stabbed on Dec. 15. They were wrapped in a blanket and dumped in a Tijuana alley in the Zona Central part of the city.
Police sources and those close to the victims provided differing accounts about why the victims went with their attackers, but it is clear there was an agreement to exchange sex for money. It is unclear whether the victims planned to purchase sex or provide it.
Desperate to raise the funds necessary to pay smugglers to cross into the United States, several other unaccompanied minors traveling with the Central American caravan, as well as adults, have said they planned to do so by selling the only thing they had left: their bodies.
In letters written by their fellow shelter roommates, other unaccompanied minors who knew the 16- and 17-year-old boys described their friendships.
“I met him in the shelter, and he also had a great dream,” one of the letters says of one of the victims, named Jasson. The Times is not using the full names of the adolescents because a third victim, closely associated with them, escaped but still could be in danger, authorities believe.
Although police said the victims were not targeted because of their affiliation with the migrant caravan, the incident highlights the dangers faced by young people traveling alone and stuck in limbo in a dangerous city between the violence they fled in their homeland and the United States, where they hoped to ask for asylum.
In the letters written by fellow unaccompanied minors traveling with the Central American caravan, the deceased teenagers are described as quiet, respectful, kind and polite.
“The kids wrote these letters because they wanted people to know that they were not bad kids and that they had friends who cared for them,” said Uriel Gonzalez, director of the shelter where the boys were staying in Tijuana. “They wanted to reflect on their lives, and the exercise helped take some of the stress away from the shock of this.”
According to the letters, most of the teenagers met when they arrived in Tijuana.
“He was a good friend. More than a friend, he was like a brother to all of us,” another letter says of Jasson. He was “a good person with a good heart,” the writer adds.
Of the other victim, Alex, his friends wrote he was like a “little brother” in the shelter, and he was also quiet and respectful.
“From the moment we met, we ruled,” one of the teenagers wrote. “I liked to tell Alex he had his whole life ahead of him. He advised us and took care of us. He was super special.”
Alex, Jasson and another teenager left their shelter for unaccompanied minors last month and made their way to the Benito Juarez migrant shelter, near the border, according to prosecutors. They missed their turn by one street, which led them into a dangerous neighborhood, authorities said.
That’s where they met some women who lured them to an area frequented by drug users, according to Alvarez, the prosecutor. The group then went to another location where they planned to have sex, Alvarez said, when two additional men arrived with the intention of robbing the boys.
The victims’ hands were bound and they were tortured, according to information presented in court. One of the boys was dressed in women’s clothing.
Prosecutors charged Carlos Martínez Cazares, Esmeralda García Carranza and Francisco Javier Zavala Niebla with the homicides. A judge ruled in December there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and the defendants will remain in jail as their criminal case proceeds.
Gonzalez, the shelter director, found the series of events given by authorities questionable. One teenager wrote in her letter that she never saw the victims smoking or drinking.
“At the shelter, they never presented themselves as troublemakers of any kind. They were not drug users. They never showed any signs of misbehavior,” he said.
Gonzalez said the teenagers went missing from the shelter after lunch the Saturday they died and they were unaccounted for at dinnertime. Staff believed they had walked to the Benito Juarez shelter to reconnect with some friends, he said.
“Then, around midnight, the kid that survived the attack jumped the fence of the shelter. He was sobbing,” Gonzalez said. “He saw his friends murdered right…. He described how they did it and he himself had strangulation marks on his neck.”
Friends of Jasson and Alex wanted to remember them as they were in the shelter, Gonzalez said, “and remove some of the stigma.”
“I remember those smiles always in their faces,” one of the letters said about both boys.
One writer remembers how Jasson worried about his family.
“He wanted his family to be proud of him and wanted to help his parents and he always had a big smile,” the writer recalls. “He was kind and polite and I want to send my best to the family of these great warriors who are now our angels.”
Another writer recalls knowing Jasson just a few short days, but having a stronger friendship with Alex.
“The only thing I wish is that he rests in peace,” the letter says.