ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WRIC) — Five members of the infamous MS-13 gang were sentenced to life in prison for the murder and dismemberment of two Virginia teenagers in 2016.
Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera, along with nine other gang members who pleaded guilty, murdered 17-year-old Edvin Mendez and 13-year-old Sergio Triminio on the belief that they were a rival gang member and police informant, respectively.
“Brutality is the hallmark of MS-13. The defendants kidnapped and murdered two innocent teenagers, shattering their dreams and [stoked] fear in the communities we live and work in,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal and Cyber Division.
According to a sentencing letter submitted by the assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Blanchard, Mendez and Triminio were prospective members of the MS-13 clique in Northern Virginia. But while Mendez was still being considered for membership, gang members became aware of a Facebook post he had made showing a man in a black mask with the number 666 on it and the word “black metal” below.
Based on this photograph — and nothing else — the gang members decided that Mendez was in fact a member of a rival gang. They plotted to kill him, inviting him to a gang meeting on August 28, 2016.
Mendez left home on a bus, which he rode to Holmes Run Park in Fairfax County, where he was met by the 17 gang members. They led him into the park before attacking him with knives, machetes and a pickaxe, before dismembering him so he could be placed in a grave the gang members had dug beforehand.
Blanchard added that investigators found no evidence that Mendez belonged to a rival gang.
When Mendez was murdered, Triminio was locked up in juvenile detention. He only learned of Mendez’s disappearance after he was released, and began asking whether the gang members had anything to do with his disappearance.
Based on that, the gang members determined that Triminio was a police informant — which he was not — and invited him to a meeting at Holmes Run Park on September 26, 2016, just a month after Mendez’s murder.
That night, they killed Triminio in much the same way they murdered his friend the month before, burying his body in the park.
“Words alone are incapable of describing the tragedy and senselessness that mark this case. Mere proximity to MS-13 and its twisted code cost two unassuming teenage boys their lives,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “In the wake of their appallingly violent murders lie wrecked families and fear-stricken communities.”
According to prosecutors, the conspirators were convicted in part due to Facebook posts the conspirators made boasting of the murders, messages between the gang members planning the killings and cell phone videos taken of the murders themselves.