ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Five members of the transnational gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have been sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of two young boys from Virginia in 2016.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia made the announcement on Wednesday after the verdict was handed down U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr.
According to court documents MS-13 gang members Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera killed a 17-year-old boy from Falls Church and a 14-year-old boy from Alexandria.
READ MORE: Man convicted for execution-style killings of husband, wife in Springfield
The documents show that the gang members, along with co-conspirators, targeted the 17-year-old boy because they mistakenly believed he was a member of rival gang. On August 28, 2016, the gang members lured the victim to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting in a wooded area of the park. After meeting with the victim, the gang members restrained, then stabbed the victim more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Court documents say the gang members then broke the victim’s legs in order to fit his body into a nearby pre-dug hole.
Court records show that, then on September 26, 2016, the same five gang members and co-conspirators targeted a 14-year-old boy that they mistakenly believed was a police informant. The gang members told the 14-year-old that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night, and he was encouraged to attend. Not long after that, the victim went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up the 14-year-old and drove him to the same park where they had killed the 17-year-old victim in August.
Court documents reveal that the gang members again restrained the victim before stabbing him multiple times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. The gang members then broke the victim’s legs, tied him up in his pajama pants, and fit him into a shallow pre-dug hole nearby. The documents say that 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.
READ MORE: Fairfax Co. police body camera footage shows high speed chase, shootout
“Brutality is the hallmark of MS-13. The defendants kidnapped and murdered two innocent teenagers, shattering their dreams and stoking fear in the communities we live and work in,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, from the FBI Washington Field Office. “This joint investigation demonstrates the FBI and our law enforcement partners’ refusal to tolerate violent gang members who terrorize our neighborhoods and ruthlessly murder rival gang members and innocent civilians.”
The five suspects were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity, conspiracy to kidnap, murder in aid of racketeering activity, and kidnapping resulting in death.
They were each sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all of which will run concurrently. To date, a total of 17 defendants, including the five who went to trial and were convicted, have been charged in this case. The nine other defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.
READ MORE: Virginia school bus driver charged with distributing child pornography
The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office, the Fairfax County Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Washington Field Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alexandria Police Department, the Prince William County Police Department, the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department, and the Marin County (CA) Sheriff’s Office.