ROCKVILLE, Md. — A 20-year-old gang member has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after luring a man with the promise of sex to a remote park, setting him up to be stabbed more than 150 times in a gang murder.
Vanesa Alvarado received a life sentence with all but 40 years suspended as part of a plea arrangement with Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Cristian Antonio Villagran-Morales, 18, who emigrated from Guatemala, lived in Gaithersburg. While he was attempting to buy marijuana from three gang members of MS-13 last June, they asked Villagran-Morales whether he was a gang member.
Although he wasn’t, prosecutors say he flashed hand signs associated with MS-13’s rival gang, 18th Street. Later, a gang leader demanded the murder of Villagran-Morales.
“Miss Alvarado’s role in this case was to lure the victim to a remote area [with] a pledge of sex,” said State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a news conference after the sentencing. “Miss Alvarado knew that if she wooed this young man down into this isolated pathway, that there were four individuals waiting for him, to kill him — to execute him. And that’s what they did.”
A young woman named Jennifer, whom prosecutors asked not to be fully identified because of ongoing cases, described finding Villagran-Morales’ body in Gaithersburg’s Malcolm King Park.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw something, his leg and shirt, and said, ‘I think that’s him,” she told reporters.
Jennifer, whose job involves working with young people, said the lure of gangs is powerful.
“We know between the ages of 12 and 15, children are forming their identity. Gang members try to offer some security and family, but we know that all they do is ruin their lives,” she said.
Alvarado never looked at family and friends of Villagran-Morales, as they gave their victim impact statements. Asked by Circuit Court Judge Anne Albright whether she wanted to say anything before sentencing, Alvarado shook her head.
Albright said Alvarado had several opportunities to allow Villagran-Morales to save himself, but stood nearby, exhorting the gang members during the murder as the young man pleaded for his life.
“Montgomery County cannot be a community that tolerates violence of this kind,” said Albright, after viewing autopsy photos of the young man’s wounds.
“This was utterly brutal,” said the judge, in agreeing with the prosecution’s request for a 40-year sentence.