Johnny Lewis Hartley and Mercy Mary Becerra
Johnny Lewis Hartley (right), 39, and Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, were arrested on suspicion of murder

An American couple have been arrested at the US-Mexico border after a dead two-year-old girl was found in their bag. Johnny Lewis Hartley, 39, and Mercy Mary Becerra, 43, of Whittier in California, were attempting to cross from San Diego into Tijuana on Wednesday (10 August) when security at the San Ysidro port of entry made the shocking discovery.

Becerra attempted to flee as officials approached the pair but was soon caught and they were both taken into custody on suspicion of murder. Officials then scanned Hartley's bag.

"An X-ray of the duffel bag revealed a body inside," a police statement said. They were sent back across to the US where they were met by US Customs and Border Protection officials.

It is thought the child may have been killed in Whittier before being stuffed in to the bag. Hartley and Becerra, who it is claimed have nine children, are reportedly married. Henry Munoz, a former neighbour, said Hartley is a good father.

"He was always with his kids, taking care of his kids, and I know he was trying to look for a job," he told ABC7. "I know they had some difficult times where they couldn't pay their bills." The suspects were denied bail and are scheduled to appear in a San Diego court on Friday afternoon.