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Brothers accused in West Texas migrant killing remain in jail as attorneys seek their release

Mike and Mark Sheppard were transferred to separate jails this month, as their attorneys filed motions in court arguing their clients are being illegally detained under excessive bond requirements.

By Travis Bubenik

The twin brothers accused in a shooting last month in rural Hudspeth County, where a migrant man was killed and a migrant woman injured, remained in jail this week as their attorneys sought their release, arguing in court filings that the brothers are being illegally detained under “excessive” bond requirements.

Sixty-year-old brothers Mike and Mark Sheppard were initially arrested on manslaughter charges in the days after the Sept. 27 shooting and released after each posting a $250,000 bond. Days later, the brothers were rearrested on new charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and assigned new bond amounts of $250,000 each.

Attorneys for both men filed motions in Hudspeth County district court on Oct. 11 seeking their release from jail or reductions in the bond amounts, arguing that the added bond requirements were unjustified given that the men voluntarily turned themselves in on the additional charges and that both arrests stemmed from the same incident.

The brothers have remained in custody since their second arrest, though they were transferred to separate jails in recent weeks. Officials said Mike Sheppard was still being held at the Brewster County Jail in Alpine as of Wednesday, while Mark Sheppard was being held at the Presidio County Jail in neighboring Marfa.

Both men are set for a bond hearing on Oct. 27, the Hudspeth County Clerk’s Office said.

According to an arrest affidavit in the case, authorities believe Mike Sheppard was the one who opened fire around 7 p.m. on a group of 13 Mexican migrants who had stopped for a drink of water at a reservoir, killing one man, Jesús Iván Sepúlveda Martínez, and injuring a woman, Brenda Bernice Casias Carrillo.

In the affidavit, an investigator said the migrants reported that one of the men yelled “something in Spanish to the effect of, ‘Come out you sons of bitches, little asses!’” and then revved the truck’s engine before the shooting started. Mark Sheppard later suggested that the brothers were in the area hunting, the affidavit said, though the investigator noted that he changed his story multiple times when questioned.

Richard Esper, defense attorney for Mark Sheppard, told the Big Bend Sentinel this week that he believes his client is innocent.

“I can confidently say Mark Sheppard is not guilty of committing any kind of homicide or any kind of assault with a deadly weapon,” Esper said.

“We just don’t want anyone to jump to any conclusions about the allegations in this case,” Brent Mayr, the attorney representing Mike Sheppard, told Marfa Public Radio. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions and evidence to uncover in this case.”

The Associated Press on Wednesday reported that seven of the migrants who witnessed the shooting were being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as their attorneys pushed for their release.

The Hudspeth County Clerk’s Office said Thursday the Sheppard brothers had not yet been formally indicted on any charges stemming from the shooting. The case remains under investigation by the Texas Rangers.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.