MS-13 gang members convicted in 2016 kidnapping, murder of teens

Five members of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted Friday by a federal jury for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of two teenage boys in 2016, according to the U.S. State’s Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to a news release, MS-13 gang members Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera, along with their co-conspirators, targeted a 17-year-old boy from Falls Church, Virginia, who they “erroneously” suspected was a member of a rival gang.

The first incident happened on Aug. 28, 2016, where the gang lured him to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense there “was going to be a gang meeting.”

Instead, in a wooded area of the park, MS-13 gang members “restrained, attacked, and killed him, stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickax.”

Afterward, the gang broke one of his legs “so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole” that was nearby, according to the release.

The second incident happened Sept. 26, 2016. The news release said the same gang members, along with their co-conspirators, targeted a 14-year-old resident of Alexandria, Virginia, who they “erroneously” suspected was a police informant.

The gang told that boy “there was going to be a gang meeting later that night” and encouraged him to attend. The boy then went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash.

Several gang members picked up the boy and drove him to the same park where they had killed the 17-year-old boy and then restrained, attacked and killed the boy, stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes and a pickax.

The release said that they also filmed the murder with a cellphone so that they could “prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank.”

Similar to the earlier attack, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so he would “fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night,” according to the release.

To date, a total of 17 defendants have been charged in the case of the two murders. Five of those defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges.

Nine defendants have pleaded guilty prior to trial, and each of the defendants convicted faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering activity, and for kidnapping resulting in death.

They were also sentenced for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity.

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Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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