Associated Press Writer
McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A Las Vegas man was ordered held without bond Friday for allegedly trying to smuggle the same type of animal tranquilizers into the country that authorities say may have been used hours before to help an Oregon woman commit suicide in a Mexican motel.
U.S. Magistrate Peter Ormsby said Jeff George Ostfeld was a danger to the community and would be held until his trial on drug-smuggling charges that carry up to a 20-year sentence.
Ostfeld was arrested Monday at the Progreso International Bridge, not far from McAllen. Mexican authorities are investigating the death of Jennifer Malone of Roseburg, Ore., whose body was found in the Las Flores Inn in Nuevo Progreso on Monday.
"Without this individual, Jennifer Malone would be alive today," Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo James Leo said.
Malone's mother, Tamara Hamilton, sat in the courtroom shaking. She left without comment.
Ostfeld was carrying 1,200 milliliters of a powerful animal tranquilizer when immigration officials — on the lookout for him after a call from Mexican authorities — stopped him at the bridge. Officials said he was also carrying a camera with still photos of what appeared to be a deceased Malone and videos that included what appeared to be her last words, "I'm scared."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Robert Haberkamp III said Ostfeld, 33, told him that he planned to sell the remaining animal tranquilizers purchased in Mexico. He said he wanted to sell them to others seeking to end their lives, including a woman in the United Kingdom and a man in Australia, according to Haberkamp.
Malone, 29, had met Ostfeld online and then began communicating by e-mail, phone and text message, Haberkamp said. Ostfeld suggested Nuevo Progreso as a place to obtain the animal tranquilizers and Malone agreed, he said.
Malone had returned to Oregon in early February and was seeking help for her debilitating depression, said her boyfriend Tom Piazza. She did not have insurance and received most of her care at clinics where there was little follow-up. She had attempted suicide before but always ran for help, he said.
"She was unable to commit suicide by herself," Piazza said. "This guy promised to do it to her. She's a victim in that sense."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.