The Department of Justice announced murder and kidnapping charges for eleven MS-13 gang members in Alexandria, Virginia Friday morning. All of them are from El Salvador, range in age from 20 to 27-years old and are being prosecuted for the killing of teenagers Edvin Escobar Mendez and Sergio Arita Triminio.
One of the defendants is not in custody and suspected of being out of the country. The other ten are being held in federal detention. Whether the members are in the U.S. illegally is unclear.
"While we note in the press release that all of the defendants are from El Salvador, we did not include any information as to their immigration status," U.S. Attorney’s Office Director of Communications for the Eastern District of Virginia Joshua Stueve tells Townhall.
According to allegations in the indictment, in August 2016, Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Erick Palacios Ruiz, Ronald Herrera Contreras, and Josue Vigil Mejia conspired together and with others to lure a 17 year-old male [Mendez], who they suspected was a member of a rival gang, to a park in Fairfax County, Virginia, in order to attack and kill him. After killing him and to conceal evidence linking them to the juvenile’s disappearance and murder, these four defendants and their co-conspirators buried the juvenile’s remains.
The indictment further alleges that in September 2016, Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Erick Palacios Ruiz, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Oscar Contreras Aguilar, Yonathan Melgar Martinez, Pablo Miguel Barrera Velasco, Anderson Villatoro, Francisco Avila Avalos, and Fredys Baires Abarca conspired together and with others to lure a 14 year-old male [Triminio] to the same park in Fairfax County where he was attacked and killed because he was thought to be cooperating with law enforcement. This juvenile’s remains were also buried.
Each of the following members face life in prison if convicted.
The charges are part of the Justice Department's ongoing crackdown on the violent, transnational gang. Prosecutors are seeking DOJ approval to charge death eligible offenses.