Guilty plea in MS-13 killing of girl, 15

WASHINGTON — A Fairfax County, Virginia teenager has pleaded guilty in the gang-related killing of a Gaithersburg, Maryland 15-year-old exactly a year ago.

On Monday, Venus Iraheta, 18, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty, without a plea agreement, to charges of first-degree murder, abduction and gang participation, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh said.

She faces maximum sentences of life in prison on thec murder charge and 10 years on each of the other charges. Sentencing is set for May 25.

Iraheta stood accused of the killing of Damaris Reyes Rivas, who was 15 when she disappeared from her home Dec. 10, 2016. Police and prosecutors said she was killed Jan. 8, 2017. Her body was found in February.

Iraheta disappeared for a month, between January and February 2017. Her return home was captured live while her mother was being interviewed by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Washington. Not long after, she was charged as an adult with leading the attack on Reyes Rivas.

She is one of 10 accused members of the gang MS-13 who have been charged in her death. Morrogh said in a statement that Reyes Rivas was targeted because the gang members thought she lured Christian Sosa Rivas, Iraheta’s ex-boyfriend and the leader of their “clique,” to his death in Prince William County earlier in January.

One of the other defendants, Jose Castillo Rivas, whom prosecutors said Reyes Rivas knew, picked her up and brought her to Lake Accotink Park, in Springfield, Virginia, where the rest were waiting for her.

Prosecutors said Iraheta hit Reyes Rivas in the face, knocking her down. Cellphone video shows the gang members demanding information about Sosa Rivas’ death, the prosecutors said, and another defendant, Jose Torres Cerrato, “telling the group they have to torture her first because she had to tell them everything.”

Iraheta told Reyes Rivas “she was going to die that day,” Morrogh said in the statement, and the group forced Reyes Rivas to stand in snow without her shoes or shirt in order to feel the same cold Sosa Rivas did when his body was dumped in the Potomac River, while they demanded information about Sosa Rivas’ death.

They then brought her back into Castillo Rivas’ vehicle, to take Reyes Rivas to another location nearby. After they got there, the entire group attacked her.

Iraheta demanded to know whether she had slept with Sosa Rivas, Morrogh said in the statement. Also, Iraheta cut a tattoo he had given Reyes Rivas off her hand, told her she would “see her in hell,” and stabbed her in the neck and chest several times, Morrogh said in the statement. Others stabbed her as well, and the video was then sent to MS-13 leadership in El Salvador “for promotions within the ranks of the gang.”

“She was a primary actor” in Reyes Rivas’ death, Morrogh told WTOP of Iraheta on Monday, “and this is a very violent and dangerous street gang. We’re always pleased when we take another off the street.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.


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