A woman suspected in a Carson killing was taken into custody in Mexico and turned over to U.S. authorities, and her teenage daughter who had been the subject of an Amber Alert was safely recovered, officials said Wednesday.
Maricela Mercado, 40, was detained Tuesday in Chihuahua by local authorities with assistance from the FBI, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Another suspect in the killing, Roman Cerratos, 39, was taken into custody in Mexico in June, and he was also turned over to U.S. authorities. Cerratos, from Hawaii, was charged June 17 with murder in connection with the April 16 killing Jeffrey Appel.
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Sheriff's officials said Wednesday that Mercado and her daughter were picked up by authorities in Mexico, and both were "deported from Mexico, being deemed to have entered the country illegally."
"They were transported to the Paso Del Norte port of entry and were delivered to agents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection," according to the sheriff's department. "Maricela Mercado was then arrested by officers from the El Paso Police Department pursuant to the warrant issued in Los Angeles for the murder of Jeffrey Appel."
FBI personnel took custody of the teenage girl "pending her return to California and reunification with her family," the sheriff's department reported. "Mercado will remain in custody in El Paso, Texas, pending extradition to California."
Alora's father, Julian Benitez, is relieved.
"My fight still continues because my war now is her mental state," he said, adding a message. "I love you. I miss you. I can't wait to hug you. It's been a while, can't wait to see you."
On June 18, Cerratos pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. The charges -- which carry a potential life prison sentence -- include allegations that the resident of Mopua, Hawaii, personally used a handgun and a knife during the commission of the crime.
A $10,000 reward had been posted for information leading to the safe recovery of the 15-year-old girl, whose fugitive mother was also named a suspect in Appel's killing.
Investigators said the teen was last seen April 17 in Torrance with her mother and Cerratos. Detectives had said they were concerned for the teen's safety because of the "extreme violence" used to kill the 32-year-old man, whose body was found around 6:30 a.m. April 16 in his Audi parked in the 400 block of East Carson Plaza Drive. He had been shot multiple times in the neck and upper body, according to coroner's records.
After the Amber Alert was issued for the teen, a white BMW sedan used by the suspects was recovered in San Diego, in the area of San Ysidro, a major border crossing. Mercado shares custody of her daughter with the girl's father, whom authorities said had no involvement in the homicide.