Accused killer of NY mother, toddler now on FBI most wanted list

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 26, 2014 1:48 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A reputed member of the murderous international gang known as MS-13 was added to the FBI's list of "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" for his role in the 2010 killing of his girlfriend and her toddler son, federal authorities said on Wednesday.

Accused of the execution-style shooting of the mother and child, who was clinging to his leg, is Juan Elias "Cruzito" Garcia, 21, a reputed member of MS-13 with ties to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a press release.

The killing in Central Islip, New York, of Vanessa Argueta, 19, and Diego Torres, 2, was part of a cycle of violence between gangs, including MS-13 and its two principal rivals, 18th Street Gang and the Latin Kings, the FBI said.

Authorities said Garcia was romantically involved with Argueta.

After the lovers quarreled, Garcia said he was threatened by rival gang members using information that he believed was provided by Argueta, the FBI said.

Garcia and two fellow gang members got permission from their leader to retaliate against the woman, the FBI said.

After being lured into a car by Garcia with an invitation to dinner in February 2010, Argueta and her son were taken to a wooded area of New York's Long Island, according to the FBI statement.

Garcia and his fellow gang members shot the woman as her son watched, then shot the crying child, knocking him to the ground but failing to kill him, the FBI said.

"Torres got back up and clutched onto Garcia's leg," when a second shot was fired, striking the boy in the head and killing him, the FBI said.

"Garcia and his co-conspirators executed a young mother and her toddler in cold blood before fleeing from the United States," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Garcia's name was added to the most wanted list following court filings and testimony introduced during two recent MS-13 racketeering trials. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to his arrest.

His fellow accused gang members, Adalberto Ariel Guzman and Rene Mendez Mejia, are awaiting sentencing after Mejia pleaded guilty to the murders and Guzman was found guilty at trial, the FBI said.

Their reputed gang leader, Heriberto Martinez, has been sentenced to three life terms, plus 60 years, in prison for multiple convictions that include murder, racketeering and conspiracy, the FBI said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Gunna Dickson)