More than 100 immigrants found at suspected stash house in Texas

CNN/KPRC
Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 12:33pm

Police in Houston rescued more than 100 immigrants Wednesday from a suspected stash house where they were being held against their will.

A total of 94 men and 15 women, including children, were discovered inside the one-story, roughly 1,500 square-foot home, according to police spokesman John Cannon.

A pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for medical attention, but most of the others appeared healthy.

"No one looked to be seriously injured inside the home. They were very hungry and thirsty, and our officers gave them things to eat and provided water. They said they were tired and hungry," Cannon said.

Five people were arrested.

Charges against them are pending, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore, who said that 95 men and 15 women were rescued.

It was not immediately clear why Palmore and the police spokesman reported different numbers.

The immigrants -- from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico -- are in ICE custody, Palmore said. They range in age from 5 to 47.

"I've been here over five years and this is the largest number of people we've encountered at one residence," Palmore said.

'Squalid conditions'

According to Cannon, authorities were tipped off to the case Tuesday night when police were contacted by family members of a missing 24-year-old woman.

They were supposed to meet a suspect holding the woman and two children -- a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy -- for ransom.

When the suspect did not show to make the exchange, the family notified police.

The spokesman declined to say how or why authorities then zeroed in on a house in south Harris County, Texas. But police set up surveillance there, and when a vehicle left the residence, a patrol car pulled it over on a traffic stop.

Officers found weapons inside the car, as well as papers indicating criminal activity, Cannon said. Two suspects were detained.

Police then entered the home.

One room, where the suspect or suspects are believed to have stayed, had a mattress, fridge and weapons, Cannon said.

"The rest of the house was cordoned off, and it's where the individuals held against their will were staying -- in squalid conditions. There was one bathroom. It was filthy," the spokesman added. "The windows were boarded with plywood, and the doors were dead bolted. You can only enter from outside."

Most of those rescued said they had been at the house for two to four days, but one woman said she had been there 15 days.

Three additional suspects were caught trying to flee the residence, bringing the number of people detained to five.  

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