A federal jury has five MS-13 gang members for their role in kidnapping and brutally murdering two Virginia teenagers they “mistakenly” suspected of being a rival gang member and police informant.
Elmer Zelaya Martinez, 31; Ronald Herrera Contreras, 24; Henry Zelaya Martinez, 28; Pablo Velasco Barrera, 24; and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera, 25, of El Salvador have made a plan to kidnap and kill both a 17-year-old boy from Falls Church whom they falsely suspected of being part of a rival gang, and a 14-year-old boy from Alexandria whom they falsely suspected to be a police informant in August 2016, according to the court records.
The gang members lured both boys to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park on August 28 of that year under the pretense that they were attending a gang meeting in the woods.
They restrained the 17-year-old, attacked and killed him by stabbing him multiple times and “chopping” his body more than 100 times “with knives, machetes and a pickaxe” before putting him in a pre-dug hole – a of the boy’s legs in the process of fitting his remains, according to the Justice Department.
The gang members also detained the 14-year-old boy, attacked and killed him by stabbing and chopping his body with the same weapons. When the 14-year-old was dead, they broke both his legs and tied him up with his own pajamas so that he would fit in a pre-dug hole — all of which they filmed and sent to gang leaders in both the US and El Salvador for their rank. to prove, the DOJ said.
The boys had been reported missing until their remains were found in March 2017 and identified in December 2017.
A total of 17 defendants have been charged in the nearly six-year-old case.
All five suspects found guilty on Friday in a… federal court of Virginia were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder for extortion activities; conspiracy to kidnap; murder for extortion; kidnapping resulting in death. They also all face mandatory life sentences.
MS-13 is a transnational gang composed primarily of individuals of Salvadoran or other Central American descent, according to the DOJ.
The gang has more than 10,000 members who conduct regular activities in at least 10 states and Washington, DC, “with thousands more conducting gang activities in Central America and Mexico,” the department noted in a 2021 press release.