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Divers Find Body of Missing Border Agent

December 20, 2003

PHOENIX (AP) _ The body of a missing Border Patrol agent has been found in the Colorado River near the spot where he had rescued a suspected illegal immigrant from the water.

The FBI was investigating the death of James Epling, said Jerome Wofford, a field operations supervisor for the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector.

``They’ve been involved the entire time because of the circumstances involved in his disappearance,″ Wofford said.

An autopsy was conducted Saturday by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s office, said Joe Brigman, a spokesman for the Yuma sector.

Epling, 24, was last seen Tuesday chasing four suspected illegal immigrants along a river trail just north of the Mexico border near Yuma. Moments earlier, he had pulled one of the immigrants, a Chinese woman, from the river.

His body was found Friday within 200 yards of where he was last seen, in water about 27 feet deep, said Joe Brigman, a spokesman for the sector. Divers had to use sonar in their search for Epling in the turbulent, cloudy water.

``The area was actually the most treacherous of all the areas we searched,″ Brigman said.

Epling was the father of three, and his wife is expecting another child early next year.

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