The skeletal remains of five individuals that were found in a remote Arizona smuggling corridor are believed to be that of homicide victims from Mexico or Central America who were shot or beaten to death.
According to authorities, Border Patrol agents made the discovery a week ago when they found the partly covered skeletal remains by rocks in the desert about 130 miles south of Phoenix near the town of Sells on the Tohono O'Odham Reservation.
Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Hess told reporters Tuesday that a preliminary examination revealed that the victims had either been beaten or shot to death.
"We are treating it as a likely homicide. However, we don't know how those injuries were inflicted yet and whether or not those injuries were blunt force injuries that caused the bones to be traumatized or were gunshot injuries," Hess said.
Hess went on to say that it is believed the five victims were nationals who were killed either there or somewhere else and put in that location.
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While details surrounding the age, sex and time of death of the five victims have yet to be established, personal effects, including currency, found with the remains were "consistent" with them being from "Mexico or Central America or somewhere else," Hess told reporters.
The area in which the bodies were found is a well-known trafficking corridor for human and drug smugglers from Mexico. Furthermore, deaths occurring during border crossings are not uncommon. However, in the present case, authorities have stated that the circumstances seem unusual and different.
Hess said the bodies could have been in the desert for up to a year. Autopsies will be performed on the remains in the coming week.