Number of Immigrant Deaths in Brooks County on the Rise - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Number of Immigrant Deaths in Brooks County on the Rise

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BROOKS COUNTY (Kiii News) -

The Brooks County Sheriff's Department has found 29 bodies of illegal immigrants so far in 2013 -- an increase of 93-percent from this time last year, which set an all-time record.

In 2012, there were a total of 129 immigrant remains found in Brooks County for the entire year. That was the most that had ever been found in a single year; but this year, the County is already on track to far surpass that number, and the discoveries of the bodies are gruesome.

The Sheriff's Department said they never get used to it. The immigrants are found in the brush and on ranch properties, and the condition the remains are in varies. Sometimes it is simply skeletal remains. Other times, there is still flesh on the bones.

Sometimes the immigrants have identification on them, and other times they do not. The immigrants get lost, run out of food and water, and succumb to the heat; and if they fall behind for any reason, or can't keep up, their smugglers simply leave them behind.

The sheer volume of immigrants that try to pass through the County and around the border security checkpoint is high.

"I know that in the month of May, on the east side of 281, between May the 1st through May the 18th, 19th, there were roughly maybe between approximately 500 to 600 that were apprehended, so that's quite a high volume," Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. "Extremely high."

Martinez said he only expects the numbers of bodies they find to continue to rise as we approach the hot summer months. Most of the immigrants come from Mexico and Central America. Martinez said that, oftentimes, the women are raped by their human smugglers.

So far, the Sheriff's Department has not found any dead children, although they have found children alive in the brush that were being transported.

In one recent incident, a female immigrant was the victim of a hit and run after being dropped off by a smuggler. Authorities believe she was hit by a tractor-trailer, but in most cases, the immigrants run out of resources and succumb to the elements.

The identities of many of the immigrant remains that are found in Brooks County are unknown, but now, the County is getting some help in identifying the dead.

An anthropologist at Baylor University in Waco is leading an effort to exhume the remains of unidentified illegal immigrants in Brooks County. Last month, bodies were exhumed from the Falfurrias Cemetery, where many unidentified immigrant remains are buried.

Photos and videos of that process were provided by the Brooks County Sheriff's Department.

"Baylor, with the assistance of Indianapolis University also, they were down here," Chief Deputy Benny Martinez said. "They exhumed 63 bodies. Approximately 63 bodies. They were taken up to Texas State. Texas State is also going to assist Baylor, and do the DNA."

The Sheriff's Department said it could be up to 24 months before they receive any results. The goal of the effort is to bring closure to the families of the immigrants.