Five members of the transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have received life in prison for their roles in the 2016 kidnappings and murders of two teenage boys in Northern Virginia.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, 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 Falls Church boy who they erroneously suspected was a member of the rival 18th Street gang.
On the night of Aug. 28, 2016, the gang lured the victim to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Eastern Virginia said in a news release.
Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed the teen, stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe, according to court records. Afterwards, the gang broke one of teen’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.
Court records and evidence presented at trial also established that the same gang members, along with their co-conspirators, targeted a 14-year-old boy from Alexandria, who they erroneously suspected was a police informant, court records show. On the evening of Sept. 26, 2016, the gang told the victim there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, the teen went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash.
Eventually, several gang members picked up the teen and drove him to the same park where they had killed 16-year-old boy. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed the second victim, stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. 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, according to court records.
Once the boy was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.
“Words alone are incapable of describing the tragedy and senselessness that mark this case. Mere proximity to MS-13 and its twisted code cost two unassuming teenage boys their lives. In the wake of their appallingly violent murders lie wrecked families and fear-stricken communities,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The sentences of life imprisonment imposed by the court are fitting; they will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families. EDVA remains steadfast in its commitment to prosecuting members of street gangs and deterring acts of violence perpetrated in their name.”
To date, a total of 17 defendants have been charged in this case, five of whom went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Nine defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Kevin Davis, Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr.