The gang members, believing a 14-year-old and 17-year-old to be part of a rival gang, “lured” them on separate occasions to remote areas and violently murdered the adolescents, according to the Department of Justice.
According to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the gang members convinced the unnamed 17-year-old to go to a park in Fairfax County, Virginia, on August 28, 2016. Once there, they killed him by “stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe.”
Roughly a month later, they murdered again, killing a 14-year-old they claimed was a police informant. He was invited to a gang meeting and later driven to the same Fairfax County Park by members of MS-13, according to authorities.
“They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Then, once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night,” the DOJ reported.
The MS-13 members found guilty of the murders included Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera. In addition, nine others charged in connection to the killings have already pled guilty for their roles.
Each of the five came from El Salvador and faced kidnapping and murder charges. They could each be sentenced to life in prison.
The investigation into the murders involved multiple entities, including the FBI’s Washington division, Fairfax County police, ICE, the U.S. Marshall’s Service, Alexandria police, Prince William County police, and several police departments.
MS-13 is a transnational gang that originated in Los Angeles but has spread throughout the United States, Europe, and Central America. The gang is known for violence and has a heavy presence in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Just last month, another Virginia jury convicted several MS-13 members for the sex trafficking of a 13-year-old girl. The gang made money by selling her for sex and brutally abused her, at one point beating her with a baseball bat 26 times, according to authorities.
Those members also face life in prison.