Boy hitman's mother pleads not guilty to immigration charge

SAN DIEGO Thu Jan 6, 2011 6:17pm EST

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - The mother of a 14-year-old hitman who confessed to severing heads for a brutal Mexican drug cartel pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge that she was in the United States illegally, according to news reports.

Yolanda Jimenez Lugo, 43, and her husband, Gabriel Aguirre Manuel, 46, pleaded not guilty to charges in federal court in San Diego, the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper reported.

The couple, both Mexican citizens, were arrested last month by federal agents outside their home in the city.

They were charged with illegally reentering the United States following previous deportation.

Jimenez Lugo's U.S.-born son, Edgar Jimenez, 14, was arrested in the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca in early December as he boarded a flight bound for the border city of Tijuana, south of San Diego, with two of his sisters.

Dubbed "El Ponchis", the boy admitted working as a killer for the South Pacific drug cartel near Mexico City.

He admitted to at least seven gruesome murders, including beheadings, while under the influence of drugs given to him by a cartel leader. He is currently being held in Mexico.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in raging drug violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago, and vow to crush powerful drug cartels.

(Writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Greg McCune)

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