CUERNAVACA, Mexico — The skinny, American-born 14-year-old looked like he should be in middle school. Instead he was surrounded by three armed Mexican soldiers in ski masks and camouflage as he told reporters he helped a Mexican drug gang behead four people.
Mexican officials say they arrested the youth known as "El Ponchis" late Thursday at an airport south of Mexico City with a 19-year-old sister who is accused of helping him dump the bodies. Authorities said he was caught with two cell phones that held photographs of tortured victims.
Many youths have been used by drug cartels in their bloody battles against the government and each other, but the story of El Ponchis may be the most shocking. A YouTube video that emerged a month ago sparked talk of a child hit man — said by some to be as young as 12.
"I participated in four executions, but I did it drugged and under threat that if I didn't, they would kill me," the boy said calmly when he was handed over to the federal prosecutor Friday morning, showing no remorse.
He told reporters early Friday that he was kidnapped at the age of 11 and forced to work for the Cartel of the South Pacific and that he had participated in at least four decapitations.
Authorities said the siblings were detained with paid tickets to flee the country.
Morelos Gov. Marco Adame Castillo said the boy was born in San Diego, Calif., and Mexican officials were researching whether he has dual nationality. A U.S. Embassy official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to embassy policy said American officials had not yet confirmed his citizenship.