Long Island Murders by MS-13: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

long island murders, brentwood murders, islip murders

Victims of the MS-13 gang in Long Island. (Facebook)

The bodies of 17 murder victims – some teenagers – were found in Long Island communities from Brentwood to Islip, and authorities say the largely immigrant gang MS-13 is responsible for the carnage.

Now authorities – from President Donald Trump to New York’s governor – are pledging to wipe out the vicious gang, which they say is made up in part of unaccompanied immigrant children from Honduras and El Salvador.  Trump highlighted the gang’s brutality during the 2018 State of the Union address, using it to highlight his calls for immigration reform.

kayla cuevas

Victim Kayla Cuevas posted this photo to Facebook a few months before she was murdered.Since teenagers started being murdered by the gang (most of the suspects are illegal immigrants),  some parents have expressed fears about letting their children go to school and authorities have launched a major task force. There was a wave of arrests after two girls were beaten to death in fall 2016, but four young Long Island men were found murdered and mutilated in a park in April 2017 as the gang defies law enforcement.

Brentwood and Islip are located about 40 miles from New York City.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Slayings Included the Murders of Two Teenage Girls After a Social Media Feud

Kayla Cuevas

Kayla Cuevas. (Facebook)

Bodies have been found in vacant lots and the woods – 11 victims in all since September 2016 alone.

The murders of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens in September 2016 shocked the community and galvanized law enforcement. The parents of both girls were Trump’s guests at the State of the Union address. Cuevas’ father broke into tears as the president spoke.

In March 2017, a dozen members of the MS-13 gang were arrested in the homicides, and that of another youth, reports CBS News.

Mickens’ “brutally beaten body” was found on a street on September 13, the day before she turned 16, and the “beaten body” of her 16-year-old friend, Cuevas, was found the next day, reports CBS.

The U.S. Attorney “described the killings as being perpetrated by ‘MS-13 gang members swinging bats and machetes,” rendering Kayla unrecognizable, CBS News reports.

nisa mickens

Nisa Mickens. (Facebook)

According to CBS, Cuevas was “marked for death” after feuding with MS-13 gang members on social media. Some photos on Kayla’s Facebook page show her drinking, smoking, and flashing hand signs. She wrote that she was single and worked at “don’t care.” Mickens had posted trophies on her Facebook wall.

nisa mickens

Photo from Nisa Mickens’ Facebook wall.

Newsday reports that the girls were from supportive families and added that “Mickens aspired to be a veterinarian or nurse; Cuevas wanted to work in law enforcement.”

Selvin Chavez and Enrique Portillo, 19, are accused of murdering Cuevas and Mickens after placing a call to accused gang member Jairo Saenz and his brother, Alexi, according to a Justice Department press release. The gang members – along with other juvenile gang members – bludgeoned Mickens to death with baseball bats and machetes and chased Cuevas down in the woods, the release says.

“In the months leading up to the murders, Cuevas was involved in a series of disputes with members and associates of the MS-13. Approximately one week before the murders, these disputes escalated when Cuevas and several friends were involved in an altercation with MS-13 members at Brentwood High School,” the release alleges. “After that incident, the MS-13 members vowed to seek revenge against Cuevas. On the evening of September 13, 2016, Chavez, A. Saenz, J. Saenz, Portillo, and other members of the Sailors Locos Salvatruchas Westside (Sailors) clique of the MS-13 agreed to hunt for rival gang members to kill. They separated into different vehicles and drove around Brentwood looking for targets.”

The release continues: “Chavez, Portillo, and two other juvenile MS-13 members, who were riding together in one car, saw Cuevas and Mickens walking down Stahley Street. They recognized Cuevas and called A. Saenz and J. Saenz, the leaders of the Sailors clique, who authorized them to kill the two girls. Chavez, the driver, pulled up close to the girls, then Portillo and the other MS-13 members jumped out of the car and attacked them with baseball bats and a machete, striking the girls numerous times in the head and body.”

After finishing the attack, “Portillo and the others got back into the car and Chavez drove them away,” the Justice Department alleges. “Mickens’s body, which was discovered on Stahley Street shortly thereafter, sustained significant sharp force trauma to the face and blunt force trauma to the head. Cuevas’s body, which was discovered the following day behind a house adjacent to where Mickens’s body was found, sustained significant blunt force trauma to the head and body and lacerations.”

2. Four Young Men Were Found Mutilated in a Park in April 2017

jorge tigre

Jorge Tigre. (GoFundMe)

The most recent slayings occurred in April 2017 even though there was an earlier crackdown against the gang when the two teenage girls were murdered in Brentwood.

On April 12, “the bodies of four men ranging in age from 16 to 20 were found in a community park near a children’s playground and soccer field in Central Islip,” reported Fox News. The slaying remains unsolved.

Jorge Tigre, 18, one of the recent victims, tried to stop hanging out with the gang after the girls’ murders, leading the gang members to target him, according to The New York Daily News.

justin llivicura

Justin Llivicura. (Facebook)

The other victims were identified as Justin Llivicura, 16, of East Patchogue, Michael Banegas, 18, of Brentwood and his cousin Jefferson Villalobos, 18, who was visiting from Florida, Daily News reports, adding that the victims were found lying face down with multiple wounds. A video circulated showing the bodies lying in a park, the Daily News reports.

michael banegas

Michael Banegas. (GoFundMe)

The bodies were mutilated with a sharp instrument, an MS-13 signature even though the slayings are unsolved.

3. Trump Vowed to Eradicate MS-13 & There Have Been Other Murders

jefferson villalobos

Jefferson Villalobos, one of the MS-13 murder victims. (Facebook)

President Trump has directed some of his harshest rhetoric against MS-13.

He told Time Magazine: “They come from Central America. They’re tougher than any people you’ve ever met. They’re killing and raping everybody out there. They’re illegal. And they are finished.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also vowed to get rid of the gang.

Another victim of the gang was 18-year-old Jose Pena-Hernandez, found murdered in the woods. The MS-13 killed him for “violating their rules — but only after consulting with ‘gang leadership’ in El Salvador,” reports The New York Post.

The gang is also accused of slaying Jose Lainez-Murcia, who was “ambushed and shot outside his home ‘because he was deemed to be ‘chavala,’ or enemy of the MS-13’ after bragging that he had assassinated gang members in El Salvador,” according to The New York Post.

4. New York’s Governor Sent a Major New Task Force to Suffolk County & People Are Afraid to Send Their Children to School

Authorities are getting serious about the gang.

According to Fox News, on April 26, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of a 25-member task force that will crack down on the gang.

“Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe and secure in their home, however the recent rash of gang-related violence by MS-13 has threatened the safety of our communities,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo called the gang members “thugs” he said were getting bolder. According to ABC News, the school districts changed rules about gang affiliated clothing but then “gang members started deciding on a daily basis what colors were off-limits, leaving students to guess what not to wear.”

Those already under indictment have been appearing in court. One of the accused gang members, Jairo Saenz, grinned during a court appearance, according to The New York Times.

5. The Gang Has Its Roots in Los Angeles Immigrant Communities

MS-13 is also called Mara Salvatrucha.

According to Fox News, the gang is “believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador.”

It’s now considered one of the most violent street gangs in the world, and it’s also responsible for violence back home.

“The brutal murders of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, and the savage killing of Jose Pena, allegedly committed by these defendants, exemplify the depravity of a gang whose primary mission is murder,” United States Attorney Robert Capers said in a press release announcing the earlier indictment. “As the MS-13 continues its efforts to expand and entrench itself in our communities, both by sending gang members to illegally enter the United States from Central America, and by recruiting new members from our schools and neighborhoods, this Office and the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force will continue our mission to dismantle the MS-13 and free our neighborhoods from the terror they cause.”

ABC News reports that in “a recent roundup of 13 suspected MS-13 gang members accused of murder and other charges, seven had entered as unaccompanied minors.” Ironically, some of the youths, from Honduras and El Salvador, are fleeing violence from MS-13 back home, where the gang took root after some of its members were deported back home from the U.S.

Of the suspects indicted in the Mickens and Cuevas’ homicides? “10 are in the country illegally, two have green cards, and one is a U.S. citizen,” CBS News reported. One of those gang members was previously deported, according to The New York Post.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the following accused gang members have been indicted so far:

Age: 29
Brentwood, New York

WILLIAM CASTELLANOS (“Dizzy” and “Satanico”)
Age: 20
Central Islip, New York

Age: 19
Brentwood, New York

JHONNY CONTRERAS (“Muerte,” “Reaper” and “Conejo”)
Age: 23
Brentwood, New York

Age: 18
Brentwood, New York

JONATHAN HERNANDEZ (“Travieso” and “Kraken”)
Age: 19
Brentwood, New York

ELMER ALEXANDER LOPEZ (“Smiley,” “Little Smiley” and “Alex”)
Age: 19
Central Islip, New York

Age: 24
Brentwood, New York

ENRIQUE PORTILLO (“Oso” and “Turkey”)
Age: 19
Brentwood, New York

ALEXI SAENZ (“Blasty” and “Big Homie”)
Age: 22
Central Islip, New York

Age: 19
Central Islip, New York