More from Northern Virginia

Friday, Jose Torres Cerrato, the leader of a Northern, Va. MS-13 clique was sentenced to 55 years in prison for his role in the murder of Damaris Reyes Rivas, a 15-year-old Gaithersburg girl.  

Reyes Rivas had been brought to the United States from El Salvador, a country tormented by MS-13 at age 12. Once she arrived in the U.S. — she was unable to escape the gang. As a teen, she began dating Christian Sosa Rivas or “Cristian Jenner” then, the leader of Cerrato’s clique.

Around New Years, 2017, Jenner was murdered. Cerrato assumed Jenner’s role as the gangs leader, and the gang turned on Rivas.

In January 2017, 10 MS-13 members and associates helped abduct, torture and murder her. Authorities say Cerrato orchestrated the crime.

“He was gonna exact retribution and he was gonna torture and kill her and in fact he said he didn’t wanna get the police involved he wanted to do it himself.” Fairfax County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Casey Lingan explained, citing Facebook messages police had obtained, as well as Cerrato’s testimony in court.

“He embarked on a mission of revenge and retribution and of gaining status within the gang. Without him I don’t think this ever would have happened.” said Lingan.

Reyes Rivas was tortured. She was made to strip down so she could “feel the cold as Cristian did.” She endured group beatings. She was stabbed multiple times, with a knife, and a stake.

It was all filmed and narrated by Cerrato.

“He was then going to use that …. and did try to use that to send to leadership in El Salvador, to gain status for having killed Damaris, and to up his status within the gang as a whole.”  

The video has been shown in court. It’s something Maria Reyes, Rivas’ mother, has had to watch — and says replays in her mind constantly.

Friday in court she wept, recalling the video of her daughter being tortured. She said she had a miscarriage.

“I don’t think the baby was able to withstand it because I was crying all the time and thinking of the hurt they caused my daughter.”

Many of the defendants involved in the case chose to plead and cooperate. Cerrato, chose to go to trial.

He expressed pride for the gang in an interview with law enforcement. He even made a court appearance wearing blue Nike Cortez’ — a shoe notoriously affiliated with the transnational gang.  

Damaris was murdered while Cerrato was wearing a tracking anklet for a previous offense. Lingan equated it to walking “stabbing somebody” in the courthouse.

The judge said he believes that Cerrato, may have been “smart enough,” not to pick up the knife himself — but that he was the mastermind behind the crime, and that he would not have stopped killing after Damaris.

“There will be two mothers leaving the courthouse in tears today — and yours is one of them. You put these events in play.” he said.

He put a gang above all else, even his “loving” family.

“There is no future in a gang. You either end up dead or in prison — and you’re going to prison”

“These acts, where children are murdering children. It makes one question why on earth life exists.”