Suspected MS-13 member charged with murder in grisly decapitation, dismemberment

WASHINGTON — Gory details are emerging in the gang killing of a man who was stabbed more than 100 times, decapitated and had his heart cut out of his chest before being dumped in a pre-dug grave in a Montgomery County park.

Police have still not identified the man whose body was discovered Sept. 5 in a wooded area of Wheaton Regional park. But one of the MS-13 gang members who’s suspected of taking part in the grisly slaying has now been charged with first-degree murder.

Miguel Lopez-Abrego, 19, appeared in Montgomery County District Court Wednesday and was ordered held without bond.

Lopez-Abrego, was one of 10 members of the violent street gang involved in the killing, according to a police informant identified in charging documents as a “ranking member” of a local MS-13 clique.

Gang members had planned for two weeks last spring to lure the victim from the Annapolis area to the park last spring in order to kill him and dispose of his body, according to the informant.

The informant said he saw Lopez-Abrego thrust a 15-inch knife into the victim’s chest — the first gang member to stab the victim. The informant said Lopez-Abrego also helped dig the grave and waited near the edge of the woods with a hand-held walkie talkie to alert the other members of the victim’s arrival.

Authorities said the informant, who led police to the body, has previously provided reliable information about gang-related killings in Frederick and Anne Arundel counties.

Lopez-Abrego, who was arrested Nov. 4 in North Carolina, was first interviewed by Montgomery County police a few weeks after the body was discovered.

Police had pulled over a vehicle in Anne Arundel County that was being driven by another MS-13 gang member wanted for first-degree murder and in which Lopez-Abrego was a passenger. Lopez-Abrego denied being involved in the killing, and police said they later lost track of him.

When Lopez-Abrego was arrested earlier this month, police said he was with two other MS-13 gang members from the D.C. area who were both also wanted on unrelated arrest warrants for first-degree murder.

Lopez-Abrego, who appeared before the judge Wednesday via video link, was also wanted on a theft charge in a case involving less than $100. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency said it had lodged a detainer against him.

Montgomery County’s State’s Attorney John McCarthy has said MS-13 has been implicated in up to 18 murders over the past two years in Montgomery County.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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