tv The Hunt With John Walsh CNN February 7, 2016 4:00pm-5:01pm PST
they're ticked off that he got away. this guy left everybody in montana with one big puzzling mystery. mystery. where is david burgert? -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com back in 1981 i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers. and over those years, i learned how to do one thing really well. and that's how to catch these bastards and bring them back to justice. i've become a manhunter. i'm out there looking for bad
♪ running for a long time ♪ running for a long time ♪ running for a long time ♪ one day god almighty's gonna cut you down ♪ ♪ tell 'em god almighty's gonna cut you down ♪ denison is a small community, you know, northwest iowa, north-central iowa really, kind of in the heart of corn country. >> it's a bunch of cozy folks, friendly. it's a nice, quiet little town. >> mid november is the busiest time for most grain elevators. that's when we receive most of our corn.
every four to five days we'd load 100 cars and ship them out to different destinations in the u.s. october 14th, after we got the first 25 cars started loading, i went out by myself to start opening the lids on the second set of 25 cars. the railcar was locked. i remember unlatching the lock on the top hatch. i've done that hundreds if not thousands of times before and never -- never, ever had anything close to something like this happen. >> 24-1 from crawford county.
>> it was a beautiful fall day and i snuck out of the office early to do some scuba diving and the reason i did that was because i was on the dive rescue team and i knew there wouldn't be many good days left in the fall that i could get out in and do some training. i had just gotten out of the water when my radio went off. so without going home or changing, i just went immediately to the scene. i was unsure of what they were talking about. my assumption was somebody had just been -- just died in some kind of accident. it took a long time for me to
really study the scene and try to understand what i was looking at. it wasn't what i expected. whatever had transpired there had transpired months prior to coming to denison. when the railroad got involved, they were able to determine that the train had come from mexico and was sidelined in oklahoma for about four months. we were pretty sure that we were dealing with somebody that was trying to enter the united states illegally. they had probably entered the railroad car on their own free will but then somebody had closed the latch and locked it so that it couldn't be opened. >> this is a case of illegal immigrants where the traffickers, the coyotes, are directly responsible for their horrible deaths. >> since the crime scene was on wheels, which was very unique,
it occurred to us that we might be able to just move the railroad car to the crime lab in des moines. >> the smuggling goes all over the world and it's been going on as long as there's been people. they are in it for the business and it is a business and it's a very big business, a very lucrative business. it pays very well. ♪ and to smugglers, people are goods. ♪ these were 11 human beings who trusted the smugglers. somebody was responsible for
these 11 people who had died. >> to find out who these smugglers were, first, big job, was to identify the victims. second, to cover every inch of that grain car for clues. >> in any investigation, examination of clothing and personal effects are part of the autopsy and they can have very important pieces of information in both how it identifies a person and sometimes what happened to that person. >> some of the very first things that we looked at were documents. and these were forged documents. we had at least two people that were from mexico. at least one guatemalan that we can tell. we have some documents from
honduras and we found some pieces of paper, just little scratch notes of paper with names or telephone numbers. somebody who might have been waiting for them, somebody who might have paid the smuggler or maybe information about the smuggler themselves. somebody was responsible for these 11 people who had perished inside this car and we felt that we were now on the right track to finding these people and holding them accountable for it. we received a phone call from a person in new york. >> everybody's heard the phrase, a big break in the case. the biggest break in the case was when eliseo, looking desperately to find his brother, picked up the phone and called the cops. >> the name we had was guillermo madrigal ballesteros.
the individuals who come into the united states illegally are coming here, most of them, in search of a better life. they want to live the american dream. >> if you live in poverty in central america and you have ten kids and you don't have indoor plumbing and you can't feed your family and there is no future for you, you're going to make that dangerous trip. you're going to save that money and you're going to get every relative to say send me to america and i'll send you money home. >> somebody was responsible for these 11 people who had perished inside of this car and we were looking for somebody that we were going to hold accountable for. we received a phone call from a person in new york.
this man told us about his young brother that he was waiting for and how he was afraid that one of those bodies was going to be his brother. >> my brother byron was the last one in the family, the only one living in the house with my parents. he was taking care of them. >> the smugglers will sometimes have recruiters who can go out and look for people, especially when you have people that are looking like they're lost. someone recruited the young byron in guatemala and helped bring him all the way to the texas border to the harlingen area in the united states. >> coyotes have absolute power over the people they traffic and many coyotes continue to extort
money from relatives even when the person has gotten into the united states. >> eliseo told us that he was living in new york when his brother called him -- when his younger brother called him to tell him that he was in harlingen, in south texas, and he needed money to pay the smugglers. >> he didn't tell anybody that he was making that trip. so it was very surprising. we were not expecting that. i said to him, if you're going to make the next move right away, don't put yourself on any dangers. i'd rather you be caught than anything happen to you. and he told me to also to send him $300 because he ran out of money, which that's what they wanted to move him to houston. >> he got a name and a phone number and a method of payment. >> the only thing i had to do was send him the money and my hopes were that he will call me from houston and tell me, i'm here. >> eliseo's brother byron was 18
years old. he called him his little brother always. we were sure that he was there. we couldn't say who he was. >> even though we don't want to admit it, we were still hoping it wasn't him but it didn't make sense, you know, that it was one of them. with all of the violence and all this stuff going on, that's what makes us sometimes just leave the country and look for a better place to live. i mean, my brother was -- probably that's what he had in mind. you know, he was young. he figured he'll look for a better future. you know, we take the risk. we take the chances. unfortunately, some of us make it, some of us not. >> coyotes all over the world have abandoned people in the
waters off of florida, children and mothers have drowned. they have abandoned them in the desert coming across into the southwest united states. a coyote is ruthless just like the coyotes in the wild. they're predators. >> eliseo's information was invaluable to us. a day or two after the news he said he received a call from one of the smugglers. this person named memo who told him that he had nothing to do with it. he said it's somebody else's fault. and this kind of stuff happens, he said. >> i remember i said to him, you are the worst, coldest person i ever spoke to. you knew exactly what you had and you never told us. you could have saved him. he says, well, i don't care. and i'm going to tell you right now, never call me back again. in fact, this phone number isn't going to be working anymore. and that was the last i heard from him.
>> during this phone conversation he also told him the composition of the group. he said there would be four women and seven men. and we found that quite interesting, that he would have this kind of information because it was not public information. we now know that this memo that eliseo was talking to was guillermo madrigal ballesteros, one of our smugglers, one of the main operators of this smuggling operation. we spoke to two witnesses, a couple of young girls. they saw guillermo. they remember seeing byron and some of the other individuals that were part of the denison 11. ♪ can't afford to let heartburn get in the way?
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vehicles because they were stationed at these houses, from these vehicles we were able to get other names of other people and it started to grow. the investigation just started to spread out. the smuggler that we identified and whose name kept coming up was guillermo madrigal ballesteros. one of the main operators of this smuggling operation. his nickname was memo. memo or don memo. memo is a familiar term. don memo is a sign of respect. the way that we believe this organization worked and it is very common with big smuggling organizations, you have your person or individuals that are in charge of overseeing the whole thing, usually on the u.s. side or on the mexican border side but close to the u.s., where they receive the goods. >> it's just like a drug cartel. there are four, five, six, ten, 20 people involved to find the immigrants, take their money, bring them across the border.
it's illegal and many times those stories end in a horrible way. >> guillermo memo was in mexico bringing in people to the united states. we spoke to two witnesses, a couple of young girls, johanna and lideny who were able to provide us some invaluable information to the inside of the organization. >> when you listen to the terrifying accounts of what the two honduran women went through from start to finish, it kind of gives you an insight into what the journey was for the denison 11 even before they got on the grain car. >> [ speaking foreign language ].
>> the saddest thing about this journey, about this attempt to realize a dream, to get to america is the extent that the coyotes exploit these people. they sell them a bill of goods, they get together their life savings. no one tells them that their biggest enemy is going to be the coyote and that they are going to go through hell. >> i think in the back of their minds, every illegal immigrant knows that the journey can be a rough one. i don't think any of them want to think that the journey could end with a loss of their life.
>> i don't know if you can imagine putting your teenage daughter in the hands of a coyote, saying here's our life savings, i'm going to trust it to a coyote, saying i hope you make it. what recourse do illegal immigrants have? what can they say? a coyote ripped me off for $3,000, $8,000, left me near dead in the desert, can i get my money back? i didn't complete my journey. can i complain to somebody? they destroy your life. you're lucky if you're alive. you're lucky if you get in and if you die, who's going to care about it? >> these two girls tell us that they wound up in a stash house.
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[ speaking foreign language ]. >> right now we are at the rio grande river. mexico being on my right side here, right across. it's approximately 100 yards. because of the brush it's real easy for a big group of aliens that wanted to cross over and once they get across, they are going to walk maybe several miles north of the river in order to get picked up and get smuggled into town. >> i think most people assume that once you get into the united states, whether you come in by car or you swim across the rio grande, you've made it. your feet are on the ground. what they don't know is that the second challenge is the no man's land between the border and
maybe 25 to 30 to 40 miles is the second checkpoint. >> there aren't very many roads leading from the border communities along the rio grande up to our major metropolitan areas. the government has set up checkpoints where all traffic has to stop and be inspected. sort of a double-check, if you will. safeguard. if people who are being smuggled want to get anywhere beyond any of these checkpoints, they're going to need either to walk through the desert in blazing heat and brush, or they're going to have to enlist the assistance of one of the people smugglers, that is, a coyote, to get them through the checkpoint somehow or to get them through on the train or find some other way to get through. otherwise, it's just a big old desert and they're not going to make it. >> these two girls tell us that they wind up in a stash house where they meet cacahuate.
>> mr. fernando lacea, who went by the name cacahuate, which is spanish for peanut, was the primary person on the united states side for this particular group who housed the undocumented aliens, then arranged for their transportation north to the checkpoint. >> it's called a stash house because these people are treated like goods. if you don't pay, you're not going anywhere. it could be to the point where you're being held captive even against your will. cacahuate, his organization and memo, had at least five stash houses that we are aware of. >> some cases they will use aluminum foil to seal the windows so nobody can see in, nobody can see out. the stash houses are used until they either get burned, they
attract too much attention, or they get busted, they get -- the smuggler gets arrested. this particular neighborhood is used for smuggling the denison 11 aliens. >> in this stash house in harlingen, texas is where johanna and lideny first met byron and the denison 11. that's where byron called eliseo for the final ransom money to get him to the checkpoint and into houston, texas.
>> johanna and lideny narrowly missed getting into that train car, which would have been the last ride of their lives. but the denison 11 did. they got in and allowed those smugglers to lock them in for that horrible ride. >> they were fed the line, you'll be let out maybe in an hour or so, which was a lie. >> imagine being inside like that and not being able to do anything.
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workers in different vehicles, load up the people from that house, put them in there, take them to the railroad tracks where they would load up onto the train. >> cacahuate and don memo had a railroad conductor in their employ who provided train schedule information. if you were going to load something illicitly on to the train, you'd need to know where that train was going to stop and what relative time and it's not the same schedule every day. >> the people were loaded into two different railroad cars. 26 as it turns out in one, and when the capacity was reached
there, 11 into another nearby car. >> my brother byron, he asked me several times to help him to come to the u.s. and the reason we always denied it was that, you know, we were scared of something, you know, could have happened, would have happened to him. and we didn't want him to go through that. we wanted him to stay with our parents and just avoid all of that. >> we are a young country. we are the country of immigrants. our relatives, our grandparents, great grandparents all dreamed of a better life coming to america. that's what these people are doing. they cannot figure out a way to get in legally. they want to work and they want the same things we do. >> they would have people loaded at the site nearest to the
checkpoint and then arranging for the people to be removed at the next site north of the checkpoint. >> they were fed the line that it's not going to be that long. you don't even need any water because you'll be let out in maybe an hour or so, which was a lie. they were duped into thinking that it was safe. a coyote is a very cunning animal. at the first sign of danger, they take off. they hide. >> that night, the train was stopped and searched by border patrol. >> one of the officers remembers climbing up on top, opening up the latch and finding this large group of people inside.
>> and sure enough, they were able to discover one car in which 26 people had been loaded. >> of course, that was the only group that they found. >> at least one guy who was riding on the outside of the grain hopper fled the scene when the train was stopped and it could have been his responsibility to let them out. >> the coyotes have spotters that ride on top of the trains or they drive parallel to the trains in cars. but when the border patrol inspected this particular train, they all bailed out. literally letting them ride to their horrible death. in my opinion, that's mass murder. >> i can only imagine how this group of 11 must have felt when that train started to roll again. there must have been that feeling that we haven't been found and so the train is moving now so we'll be able to reach our destination but i also can't
help feeling that by this time they were starting to feel the effects of the environment, the enclosure, the lack of water, the heat. it must have seemed like an eternity locked up in there. >> the train stopped again in the kingsville area. this is where i am sure that they thought, okay, we've made it. but the longer they sat in there, the doubts had to have taken place. they finally decided, maybe yell out for help. you're out in desolate areas, so
there wouldn't have been anybody to hear them. >> i suspect that at one point when these individuals realized that no one was going to open that railcar for them, that they were desperately trying to find an escape route. in the hatch opening, there was a rubber gasket which appeared to have some damage and appeared to me that it would be consistent with individuals trying to peel away that plastic in order to try to escape. >> you know, the heat in texas and all those states up there is -- imagine being inside like that and not being able to do anything.
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>> the main smuggler we were going after was don memo, of course. we knew he worked out of mexico city. >> even though his fingerprints may not be on the hatch of that train, police say he's alleged to have been an accessory, a major part of the murder of those 11 people and those families cannot even begin to heal until guillermo madrigal ballesteros is in handcuffs. >> we started putting surveillance on don memo. at this particular time we had no pictures of him, no i.d. i decided we needed to identify him. we called the harlingen police department. they were able to pull him over on a traffic violation. >> gabe called to tell me, we have memo here.
>> he didn't have proof of insurance or driver's license. he didn't even know who the truck belonged to. >> i called to say we thought we should go ahead and hold onto him. go ahead and charge him. go ahead and arrest him. our instructions were that we weren't ready yet because we were still waiting for dna. we didn't have all of the pertinent facts that the assistant u.s. attorney felt she needed at the time to be able to charge him with the smuggling. as hard as it was, we had to tell the police department to let him walk. >> the real frustration for crime victims particularly -- and i'm one of them -- is the fact that the case isn't made and the perpetrator and the bad guy is allowed to either, number
one, escape or disappear or commit another crime, a heinous crime again because they didn't decide to prosecute in time. >> i believe it was late april that the fbi laboratory responded with the matching of the dna that was collected to the remains that were sent from iowa. 11 victims. we had 11 matches. with what we had drawn. >> this organization, though the denison 11 had perished, still kept right on going. it's business for them. that's their job. that's their work. they were good at it. >> one of the main targets was cacahuate, the local contact here in harlingen. we were able to tail him to a mobile home that he had rented. we conducted the video surveillance there. we were able to put the train
conductor meet with him there. one of our agents had information that cacahuate was in a stash house in kingsville with a load of aliens. there were numerous people laying down asleep. one of them was laying on the couch. i recognized him as cacahuate. i immediately grabbed him, put him on the floor. he was subsequently charged with that smuggling load that he was apprehended with and it kicked in the process of the denison 11. >> one of these cowards, one of the coyotes is doing 24 years in an american prison, right where he should be. >> the train conductor did 41 months. he's out. the missing piece of the puzzle is ballesteros. >> the indictments came in 2003 so it's been over ten years and nothing has come about. >> the case has been dismissed
without prejudice, meaning that it could be reopened. there is reason to believe that don memo may be back in texas. when and if he is found, doing the same thing, a conspiracy charge and reactivate the denison 11 case. >> i don't think i will understand why charges were dropped. those families need justice. don memo is out there. i'm sure he's doing what he's always done his whole life. he's put another group together and they're just figuring out an easier, faster, better way to get illegal immigrants into the united states and exploit them. someone has to contact us and let us know. he has to be held accountable for what he's done. guillermo madrigal ballesteros is a known human trafficker in guatemala, honduras and el salvador. he goes by the nickname don memo.
he's believed to be in texas or mexico. if you have seen guillermo madrigal ballesteros or have information as to his whereabouts call 1-866-the hunt or go online at cnn.com/thehunt. you can remain anonymous. we'll pass your tip on to the proper authorities. if requested, we'll not reveal your name. >> there was a memorial service held at st. rosa lima catholic church. >> there were actually people going around raising money to get what was left of them back to their homeland. >> it would be very satisfying for me personally to put the handcuffs on memo. it would give me great pleasure to take him to jail. >> this is the land of milk and honey, the land of opportunity. they are willing to risk so much
to just get a piece of that. it made many people here in the community, it made myself just realize how good we had it. >> nothing can bring my brother back. but i think the responsible people should be -- should have been treated different. should have been arrested now and in jail. >> that these people voluntarily climbed into the hopper doesn't excuse the fact that they died. they did not deserve to die this way. they didn't deserve to die because they were coming up here. [ speaking a foreign language ]
>> the names of the 11 deceased are pedro lopez, age 37 from honduras. >> domingo cibron, age 36 from el salvador. 38 from honduras. >> omares contreras from mexico. age 23. >> robert enrique, age 23 from mexico. >> juan mesa, 27, of mexico. >> mercedes gertrude gito. age 40 from nicaragua. age 24, honduras. >> leslie farafino from honduras. age 24. >> leslie farafino from honduras. >> leli elizabeth farafino, 35 from honduras. byron acevedo, 18, from guatemala.
back in 1981, i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye, and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache. i still have the rage. i waited years for justice. i know what it's like to be there waiting for some answers, and over those years, i learned