Thirteen members of the La Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) were indicted for three murders, one attempted murder, and other charges in Northern Virginia, states a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether this case is connected with the extensive FBI search for bodies in Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Mason District last May. “We can’t comment on anything like that that would compromise the investigation of the case,” said public information officer Joshua Stueve. The indictment alleges that at least one of the victims was buried but doesn’t say where.
According to the nine-count indictment, three of the defendants – Jose Lopez Torres, 25, of Falls Church; Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, 21, of Falls Church; and Omar DeJesus Castillo, 21, of Arlington – “together with others known and unknown to the grand jury, knowingly and intentionally murdered Nelson Omar Trujillo” on or about Oct. 7, 2013, in Fairfax County.
Those three, with the alleged assistance of defendant Alvin Gaitan Benitez, 21, of Falls Church, buried the body of Trujillo.
The indictment alleges that defendants Castillo; Benitez; Douglas Duran Cerritos, 18, of Falls Church; Christian Lemus Cerna, 18, of Falls Church; Araely Santiago Villaneuva, 18, of Falls Church; Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, 19, of Falls Church; Jose Del Cid, 18, of Alexandria; and possibly others murdered Gerson Adoni Martinez Aguilar in Fairfax County on or about Oct. 7, 2013.
The indictment also alleges that Del Cid, Jesus Alejandro Chavez, 24, of Alexandria; Genaro Sen Garcia, 19, residence unknown; and possibly others murdered Julio Urrutia in the City of Alexandria on or about June 19, 2014. The indictment alleges Chavez killed Urritia by shooting him with a firearm.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Torres; Romero Cruz, 28, residence unknown; and Jaime Rosales Villegas, 30, of Richmond “knowingly and intentionally combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together and with each other and others to murder an unnamed person” in Woodbridge on or about Sept. 29, 2013.
Eleven of the defendants face the maximum penalty of death or a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted. The other two, Villegas and Cruz, face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the attempted murder charge and a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years for the possession of a firearm charge.
One of the court documents provides some background information on MS-13, which it describes as “a violent international street gang involved in a variety of criminal activities, including murder, obstruction of justice, drug trafficking, and sex trafficking.” MS-13 operates throughout the United States, including Virginia, and has a large international presence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.
MS-13 recruits members predominantly from the Hispanic community, the document states. “Recruits are ‘jumped in’ to the gang by being physically beaten by members and associates while a member counts to 13.”
MS-13 members are required to use violence, threats of violence and intimidation to protect the power, reputation and territory of the gang. One rule of the gang calls for MS-13 members to “confront, fight, and kill rival gang members, known as ‘chavalas,’” using fists, machetes, firearms, or whatever weapons are available. Another rule prohibits cooperation with law enforcement, and gang leaders can authorize the murder of anyone who violates this rule.
MS-13 members often wear blue or white clothing and clothing displaying the number 13 or numbers that total 13, such as 76.
MS-13 is organized into local groups known as “cliques” that hold regular meetings. Each clique is run by a senior leader known as the “First Word,” and gang members are known as “soldiers.” The Park View Locos Salvatruchas (PVLS) is an MS-13 clique operating in Northern Virginia.