WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — A man from Tomball, Texas is charged in Wichita County for smuggling three children after authorities said he wasn’t able to identify them during a traffic stop on U.S. 287.
Mario Alberto Murillo-Rodriguez, of Tomball, is charged with smuggling of persons. His bond was set on that charge of $250,000, however, Murillo-Rodriguez remains held without bond on a Border Patrol detainer.
According to the affidavit, a deputy with the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle traveling eastbound on U.S. 287 on Friday, May 12, 2023, just before 10:30 a.m., when they were traveling behind another vehicle at an unsafe following distance.
The deputy identified the driver of the vehicle as Murillo-Rodriguez and the front-seat passenger as Marilu Munoz-Avila. The deputy said three children were located in the backseat of the vehicle, ages 2, 7, and 14.
According to authorities, Murillo-Rodriguez told the deputy that the passenger was his wife, the kids were his, and that he had permission to have them out of school. He told the deputy they were driving home from New Mexico after visiting a friend who had just had his leg amputated.
The deputy said in the affidavit that he observed Murillo-Rodriguez displaying an overreaction of nervousness. The deputy asked Murillo-Rodriguez the names of his wife and kids and said that Murillo-Rodriguez seemed hesitant to answer.
The deputy said he then questioned Munoz-Avila, the passenger, who said Murillo-Rodriguez is her cousin and that the children were her kids, but she also could not provide the deputy with their names.
According to the affidavit, the oldest of the children in the backseat told the deputy they had been under the care of a family in New Mexico and now were headed back to their parents in Texas.
The deputy said Munoz-Avila then admitted the children were not hers and said they were her nephews, but when the deputy asked her what the parents’ names were, she could not give an answer. She then told the deputy she had not committed an infraction and to speak to the driver, Murillo-Rodriguez.
Authorities said Murillo-Rodriguez then gave the deputy a new story, that he’d picked the children up at a motel in Albuquerque and was taking them to their father in Houston.
According to the affidavit, CPS eventually was called to the scene and took custody of the children.
Both Murillo-Rodriguez and Munoz-Avila were transported to jail. Munoz-Avila was not charged with smuggling of persons but remains held on a Border Patrol detainer.