FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WRIC) — Five members of the transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted late Monday evening for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of two Virginia teenagers back in 2016, according to the Department of Justice.
The release by the DOJ states that The five 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 resident (referred to only as E.E.E.M in court documents) who they suspected was a member of the rival 18th Street gang.
On the night of August 28, 2016, the release states that the gang lured E.E.E.M. to a park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterward, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’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 and their co-conspirators targeted a 14-year-old resident of Alexandria (referred to only as S.A.A.T. in court documents) who they suspected was a police informant.
On the evening of September 26, 2016, the release states that the gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe.
The DOJ said the members 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. Once S.A.A.T. 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.
According to the release, a total of 17 defendants have been charged in this case. Of those, five defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Nine defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.
Each of the five defendants convicted Monday evening faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering activity and for kidnapping resulting in death, in addition to the sentences they receive for conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity and conspiracy to kidnap, the maximum sentences for which are ten years and life, respectively.