A couple who pleaded no contest in the 2016 death of a 4-year-old girl whose body was found in a duffel bag as they were trying to cross from San Diego into Mexico were sentenced Thursday under a plea deal.
Mercy Mary Becerra, 48, received a 24-year state prison sentence while Johnny Lewis Hartley, 43, will serve nearly 37 years.
The Whittier couple – who were initially charged with multiple counts including murder and torture – pleaded no contest Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter, child abuse, human trafficking of an adult and criminal threats, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Guillermo Santiso.
Hartley had a prior conviction for involuntary manslaughter from Orange County in 1999.
Along with the prison terms, the two were ordered to register as sex offenders.
Becerra and Lewis crossed the border and entered Tijuana in a pedestrian lane on Aug. 9, 2016. Becerra ran as Mexican customs agents approached them, San Diego police said, but authorities chased her and took her companion into custody.
The girl’s body was discovered during an X-ray examination of the bag Hartley had been carrying, authorities said.
Becerra and Hartley trafficked a woman between November 2012 and August 2016, seized her daughter and severely abused her child, prosecutors said shortly after the case was filed.
The girl, identified only as “Angelina W.,” was initially thought to be about 2 years old.
An autopsy determined that the girl – who weighed 19 pounds – suffered from malnourishment associated with chronic neglect, before drowning, according to Santiso.
The two could have faced potential life prison terms if the case had gone to trial and they had been convicted of murder.