Mexico: Teen hit man freed, sent to U.S.

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(CNN) — Mexican authorities set free a former teen cartel hit man on Tuesday and sent him back to the United States.

The release of the teen, a U.S. citizen known as “El Ponchis,” or “The Cloak,” comes less than three years after a Mexican court found him guilty of torturing and beheading at least four people and kidnapping three others as an operative for the South Pacific Cartel.

The teenager’s age, and his on-camera description of the slayings, brought international attention to the case. Analysts said the dramatic example showed how Mexican drug gangs were increasingly recruiting youths.

On Tuesday, Mexican authorities said he had served his three-year sentence and had been sent back to the United States.

The teen, now 17, boarded a commercial flight from Mexico City to San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday morning, according to Jorge Messeguer, government secretary in Mexico’s Morelos state.

Ana Virinia Perez Guemes, president of a court for adolescents in Morelos, said the teen would enter a rehabilitation center in the United States.

“We think that we did the best we could with him, and the idea is that he can expect to have a better life in a different country, in his country of origin, when he gets the support that he needs, an environment of understanding and of boundaries, and not of discrimination, where they can help him to return to a productive life,” she told reporters, according to Mexico’s state-run Notimex news agency.

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Rafael Romo

CNN’s Mayra Cuevas and contributed to this report.

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