12-year-old girl tied up, pants taken off when she was strangled, records allege

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Saturday, June 22, 2024
12-year-old girl tied up, pants taken off when she was strangled, records allege
Court paperwork revealing details about how Jocelyn Nungaray was allegedly lured near a creek before her death. The suspects were also revealed to be prior ICE detainees.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The two capital murder suspects charged in 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray's death were arrested within the last few months by U.S. Border Patrol but then released, according to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Johan Jose Martinez Rangel, 22, and Franklin Jose Pena Ramos, 26, both Venezuelan nationals, were in the U.S. illegally, ICE said, adding that they didn't know when or where they entered the country.

According to the agency, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended Martinez near El Paso on March 14, but he was released that same day on an order of recognizance with a notice to appear.

U.S. Border Patrol arrested Pena on May 28, also near El Paso. On the same day he was apprehended, a judge also ordered Pena to appear in court later.

Both men waived their probable cause court appearance Friday evening, where the court revealed they had ICE holds set at no bond.

Ahead of the hearing, ABC13 learned the Harris County District Attorney's Office requested bonds set at $1 million each.

When asked why they didn't request no bond, prosecutors explained that an "11B" hearing would have to occur, requiring them to present evidence and reveal their strategy, which they said they weren't prepared to do at the moment.

They noted that capital murder of a child between 10 and 15 years old wouldn't be a death penalty case under state law.

Things could change, though, the district attorney's office said. If evidence shows a sexual assault took place, the death penalty would be in play, and the suspects would be eligible for no-bond without a hearing.

A hearing officer didn't set a bond Friday, deferring that decision instead to the district judge. Both suspects are slated to go before Judge Josh Hill in the 232nd District Court on Monday.

According to court documents, the men allegedly lured Jocelyn under a bridge, where they kept her for over two hours, took her pants off, tied her up, and killed her before throwing her body in the bayou.

Jocelyn was discovered in a Greenspoint creek on Monday.

In an update from the Houston Police Department on Thursday afternoon, Lt. Stephen Hope said surveillance video and other evidence helped them identify the suspects.

Hope said the two men started their evening at a restaurant together. They left the restaurant on foot and walked southbound when a camera first recorded them.

HPD released those images on Tuesday.

The suspects later met with Jocelyn and talked for a few minutes on Kuykendahl Road. Later, Martinez, Pena, and Jocelyn walked to a convenience store. During Friday's hearing, the court revealed the suspects were asking her for directions during the first time they encountered.

ABC13 obtained surveillance images that appear to show 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray's last moments alive before her body was found in a creek in north Houston on June 17, 2024.
ABC13 obtained surveillance images that appear to show 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray's last moments alive before her body was found in a creek in north Houston on June 17, 2024.

After a few minutes, all three of them walked to a bridge, which is where HPD said the 12-year-old was strangled.

Martinez and Pena then continued walking to their residence, leaving Jocelyn behind.

After days of investigating, authorities arrested the two men on Thursday at 13355 Northborough Drive at the Canfield Lakes Apartment. They were detained and taken in for questioning. Meanwhile, crews remained at the apartment complex looking for additional evidence of the crime, which was found, but police would not immediately release those details.

A neighbor told ABC13 that the men were construction workers, adding that one of the suspects attempted to run from police.

Jocelyn's body was found Monday off West Rankin Road near the North Freeway, walking distance from where she lives, after investigators believe she snuck out of her home around 10 p.m. on Sunday. Her mother last saw her when she went to bed, according to police.

Houston police said surveillance images of that evening helped lead them to the suspects. Police said both men were seen walking with the young girl in the area where she would later be found dead.

Before prosecutors revealed their bond request, Mayor John Whitmire, who's been present at HPD briefings about the case, mentioned all eyes are on the court system now.

"We're gonna be watching you. The rest have taken place, and the charges have been filed. Now, we want the justice system to do its job. If there was ever a circumstance where you do not give someone bail, this is it," Whitmire said. "There are circumstances allowed if you can prevent bail. Take in consideration flight risk. Take in consideration the severity of this crime. So I'm gonna be monitoring the court system. I want these suspects to have their day in court. I want them to be held accountable and I want it done sooner than later."

RELATED: HPD believes 12-year-old girl may have snuck out of her home before being found dead in creek

Authorities urge anyone with information about the girl's death to contact Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS (8477).