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Judge sets $10 million bond for Venezuelan man accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl

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Judge sets $10 million bond for Venezuelan man accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl
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Judge sets $10 million bond for Venezuelan man accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl

2024-06-25 07:13 Last Updated At:07:21

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge in Texas set bond of $10 million Monday for an undocumented Venezuelan man accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl whose body was found in a creek after she disappeared during a walk to a convenience store.

Franklin Jose Peña Ramos, 26, is one of two men charged with capital murder in Jocelyn Nungaray's death. The other is Johan Jose Martinez-Rangel, 22.

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Family of Jocelyn Nungaray comfort each other as Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appears in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — A judge in Texas set bond of $10 million Monday for an undocumented Venezuelan man accused of killing a 12-year-old Houston girl whose body was found in a creek after she disappeared during a walk to a convenience store.

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, speaks about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, speaks about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, holds a rosary after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, holds a rosary after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appears in court before Judge Josh Hill, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appears in court before Judge Josh Hill, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

District Attorney Kim Ogg speaks to the media during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

District Attorney Kim Ogg speaks to the media during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led into the courtroom, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led into the courtroom, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led out of the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led out of the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, center, is embraced by Tiffany Carmona, left, and Jackie Major after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, center, is embraced by Tiffany Carmona, left, and Jackie Major after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Peña’s bond was set during a court hearing in which prosecutors told state District Judge Josh Hill that he and Martinez-Rangel tried to flee the Houston area after the killing.

The two men are Venezuelan nationals who entered the United States illegally in March, according to a statement Friday from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. U.S. Border Patrol near El Paso, Texas, arrested Martinez-Rangel on March 14 and Peña on March 28. Both were released with orders to appear in court at a later date.

Immigration is a top concern for voters, with many saying President Joe Biden hasn’t been doing enough to secure the country’s borders. Earlier this month, Biden unveiled plans to enact immediate significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Both Peña and Martinez-Rangel are now under immigration holds by federal authorities, meaning they would remain in custody even if they could post bond. Martinez-Rangel is set to appear in court to review his bond status on Tuesday.

Nungaray's body was found June 17 in a shallow creek after police said she sneaked out of her nearby home the night before. She was strangled to death, according to the medical examiner.

The suspects allegedly lured Nungaray under a bridge and remained with her there for more than two hours, according to court documents.

Prosecutors allege the men took off her pants, tied her up and killed her before throwing her body in the bayou. It doesn’t appear that the two men knew the 12-year-old, said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

“Make no mistake, this is a horrific crime,” Ogg said during a news conference following Peña’s court hearing.

Lisa Andrews, a court-appointed attorney for Peña, did not immediately reply to a call and email seeking comment.

The victim's mother, Alexis Nungaray, remembered her daughter on Monday as someone who was quirky and “definitely made people laugh.”

“I’m always going to remember those memories because she had such a bright future ahead of her and I knew she was going to go very far,” she said. “These monsters took that opportunity from her, from her family.”

Police arrested Martinez-Rangel and Peña, who investigators said were roommates, on Thursday. Authorities said surveillance video showed two men approaching Jocelyn Nungaray before walking to a Houston convenience store with her. The three then walked together to a bridge, where the girl was killed, police said.

Kelvin Alvarenga, Jocelyn Nungaray’s grandfather, said Monday that his granddaughter’s death could have been prevented if the country’s immigration system had been “redone.”

"I don’t believe that everyone who crosses the border is bad. But within them, there are some who are,” he said. “Why not take some more time and investigate these people who come here?”

Ogg said the capital murder charges Peña and Martinez-Rangel face are not death penalty eligible. But if additional DNA testing or other evidence shows the victim was sexually assaulted or kidnapped, the death penalty would be possible, she said.

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Family of Jocelyn Nungaray comfort each other as Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appears in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Family of Jocelyn Nungaray comfort each other as Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appears in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, speaks about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, speaks about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, holds a rosary after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, holds a rosary after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appears in court before Judge Josh Hill, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appears in court before Judge Josh Hill, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

District Attorney Kim Ogg speaks to the media during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

District Attorney Kim Ogg speaks to the media during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led into the courtroom, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led into the courtroom, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led out of the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, is led out of the courtroom after bail was set for $10 million, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, leaves the courtroom after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, center, is embraced by Tiffany Carmona, left, and Jackie Major after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Alexis Nungaray, the mother of Jocelyn Nungaray, center, is embraced by Tiffany Carmona, left, and Jackie Major after speaking about her daughter during a news conference after Franklin Peña, one of the two men accused of killing the 12-year-old girl, appeared in court, Monday, June 24, 2024, in Houston. Peña was ordered held on $10 million bail as he and another man, Johan Jose Rangel-Martinez, are charged with capital murder over the girl's death. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s far-right national security minister visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday, a move that could disrupt the delicate Gaza cease-fire talks.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages "but without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”

The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.

The visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress.

Ben-Gvir said while standing in front of the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque that he “is praying and working hard" to ensure that Netanyahu will not give in to international pressure and will continue with the military campaign in Gaza.

Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.

He has been convicted eight times for offenses that include racism and supporting a terrorist organization. As a teen, his views were so extreme that the army banned him from compulsory military service.

As security minister, Ben-Gvir oversees the country’s police force. As a key coalition partner, Ben-Gvir also has the power to rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and try to force early elections.

Ben-Gvir has used his influence to push forward pet projects and encourage Netanyahu to press ahead with the war in Gaza in the face of widespread calls to reach a cease-fire deal that would bring home hostages.

Jews and Muslims both claim the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.

Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, during tense periods. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.

In an overnight session that lasted into Thursday morning, Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The vote was largely symbolic and meant to send a message ahead of Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S.

Overnight Israeli strikes Thursday in central Gaza killed at least 11 people, according to the Hamas-run Civil Defense organization and hospitals. At least two children and two women were killed in air strikes on a house and a car.

In recent weeks, Israel has stepped up strikes in central Gaza, where many Palestinians have fled to escape fighting in other parts of the beleaguered territory. Israel’s military said it targeted a senior commander from the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad’s naval forces in Gaza City, and another Islamic Jihad commander responsible for launches in the city of Shejayiah.

Israel also said it killed a senior commander affiliated with Hamas and other militant groups in Lebanon. In a statement, Sunni al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, identified him as Mohammad Hamed Jabbara and said he was killed in a strike in the western Bekaa area in Lebanon not far from the Syrian border. The Israeli military described Jabara as a Hamas operative in Lebanon who helped coordinate Islamic Group attacks targeting northern Israel.

The war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has killed more than 38,600 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.

Hamas’ October attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostage. About 120 remain in captivity, with about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

FILE - Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sept. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool, File)

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