On Monday, an 18-year-old woman was convicted of murdering a 15-year-old girl, having climbed on top of her after the girl was knocked down by gang members, then telling her that she would see her “in f***ing hell” before stabbing her to death.
Venus Romero Iraheta was 17 when she helped torture and murder Damaris A. Reyes as part of a revenge plot from members of the violent El Salvador group MS-13. Iraheta joined nine other MS-13 members and associates, all between the ages of 15 and 21, who met Damaris at Springfield’s Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County, Virginia, on January 8, 2017, after one member tricked Damaris into going there.
Only one week earlier, the leader of the MS-13 group, Christian Sosa Rivas, had been murdered, and the group blamed Damaris for luring him to his death.
The torture of Damaris before her murder was recorded by the group on their cellphones; Fairfax County Commonwealth’s attorney Raymond F. Morrogh played the videos in court to show the judge the monstrous nature of the crime. “Some kids are prodigies at the violin and some kids are prodigies at violence. This is a prodigy at violence,” he said.
According to Morrogh, after Damaris arrived at the park, the group forced her into the woods, where Iraheta hit Damaris in the face, cutting her. She then knocked her to the ground. Morrogh continued that Iraheta told Damaris that she had to die in the same way Sosa Rivas, her boyfriend, had died. He had been assaulted with machetes and rocks before his body was left in the Potomac River on New Year’s Eve 2016.
In one video, an MS-13 member clicks a cigar cutter while another informed Damaris she could lose a finger. Morrogh said the gang forced Damaris to remove her shoes and shirt in the 21-degree weather; a video shows Damaris shaking violently from the cold. Iraheta brandished a large hunting knife while someone shouted off camera in Spanish: “What the f***! Just stick the steel in her.”
That death came later. Morrogh said the gang forced Damaris into a car; one gang member put his arm around Damaris to pretend they were boyfriend and girlfriend so suspicion would not be aroused by witnesses. Morrogh stated that the gang played “MS-13 music” in the car while Iraheta reiterated to Damaris that she was going to die.
Driving to another area, the gang forced Damaris to crawl through a 3-foot tunnel replete with MS-13 graffiti, then took her into the woods where the gang members kicked and punched her. Finally, Iraheta climbed on top of Damaris, querying her as to whether she had slept with Sosa Rivas. Morrogh said Damaris admitted that she did and asked for forgiveness.
Not a chance.
Iraheta sliced a tattoo off Damaris’s hand that was a gift from Sosa Rivas, according to Morrogh. He said Iraheta later admitted to investigators she felt no remorse about what followed, when she sneered to Damaris, “I told her ‘I’m not going to forgive you and you’ll remember me till the day I see you in f---ing hell.’” Then she stabbed Damaris over and over again. Morrogh said the girl probably lived 20 more minutes after being stabbed 23 times and receiving blows to her head.
Later, the gang members left Damaris’ body underneath the Beltway overpass in a puddle of water. Morrogh said the reason the gang videotaped the murder was so they could ship the video to El Salvador to earn a promotion within the gang, as the gang requires violence for promotion within its ranks.
Morrogh concluded, “She tortured her and then she told her, ‘I'll see you in hell,’ and made sure the victim understood what her full name was. That's just a level of cruelty even I'm not used to after almost 35 years in this business … Just pure evil. To torture to death a 15-year-old girl, it staggers the imagination."