Felix Mendez

Felix Mendez

A teenager transporting two undocumented migrants slammed into the car of a 65-year-old woman Saturday afternoon in Whetstone, killing her instantly, officials with the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.

Felix Mendez, 16, of Mesa, is in custody at the Cochise County Jail, charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and endangerment after state troopers said the teen rammed into a Ford Focus driven by Wanda Sitoski of Benson. The crash occurred just after 5 p.m.

Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Mendez was driving a Dodge Charger at a high rate of speed on State Route 82, heading west. Graves said Mendez ran the red light at SR 82 and State Route 90, and T-boned into Sitoski, who was heading south on SR 90. She died at the scene.

The two migrant women traveling with Mendez were injured and both were taken to a local hospital in the custody of Border Patrol agents, Graves said.

Mendez, who was not seriously hurt, was taken to the Cochise County jail, Graves said.

Authorities said the teenager bolted from Tombstone after evading a deputy marshal who tried to pull his vehicle over. Investigators said Mendez sped through Tombstone, and when he reached the Border Patrol checkpoint at State Route 80 near its intersection with SR 82, he turned around and drove onto SR 82. At that point, Tombstone authorities stopped following Mendez.

The checkpoint station had been closed for months, but had just reopened, investigators said.

This is the second time this year a teenager transporting illegal migrants was caught after causing an accident, court records show.

In early February, Alexander Barron, who was 16 at the time, was ferrying six undocumented migrants in his pickup, investigator said. Barron was attempting to get onto Interstate 10 near Benson, but he was driving so fast he failed to negotiate the truck onto the freeway. He crashed into motorist Dana Law of Benson and his pickup overturned several times, investigators said. Barron’s charges were injured, as was Law and his passenger.

This summer Barron pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unlawful flight from pursuing law enforcement vehicles and six counts of endangerment, court records show.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Border Patrol agents have repeatedly lamented that cartels in Mexico use social media to recruit young people from out of town to transport undocumented migrants. The individuals who are recruited usually get about $1,000 for every migrant they can load into their vehicle, investigators have said.

The sheriff said the majority of those who are recruited are from larger cities in Arizona or from other states. There is no information on whether Mendez had been paid.

The teenager is being held on $50,000 bond.