Police say a 19-year-old gang member helped stab a man over 100 times, cut out his heart and bury him in a Maryland park.
Miguel Angel Lopez-Abrego was arrested and charged in the murder of the unidentified man, who was found decapitated and buried next to his own heart at Wheaton Regional Park in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Lopez-Abrego, a believed MS-13 gang member known by the name “Timido,” has been charged with first-degree murder. He was extradited to Montgomery County and is being held on no bond in Rockville District Court. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for December 22.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told The Washington Post that Lopez-Abrego is a national of El Salvador and is illegally living in the U.S. He’s currently in immigration proceedings.
Here’s what you need to know about the case:
1. An Informant Brought Investigators to the Victim’s Body
According to the arrest warrant, an informant, who was also a member of MS-13, said that he and at least nine other gang members participated in the murder of a man. He brought police to the gravesite in a wooded area of the park on September 5, documents say, and further told them the details of the gruesome murder of the unidentified man.
The body was exhumed from the shallowly-dug grave and reviewed by the medical examiner. The determination was made that the male appeared to have been choked, stabbed over 100 stab times, decapitated, dismembered and had his heart pulled from his chest and buried alongside him. The informant mentioned that Lopez-Abrego was the first one to see the suspect and also the first one to stab him.
2. Police Say Lopez-Abrego Waited for the Victim at the Park & Stabbed Him With a 15-Inch Knife
The informant told investigators that he and at least nine other members of MS-13 were attempting to lure the victim from the Annapolis area to Silver Spring park. They had planned to kill him and bury his body in a wooden area of the park, the informant said.
One of the people the informant told officers took part in the murder was known as “Timido,” or Lopez-Abrego. The informant said that Lopez-Abrego helped dig a hole in the park, where the body would be buried, and participated in the murder.
On the night when the victim arrived at the park, believed to be on or around March 30, the informant said Lopez-Abrego waited at the edge of the woods with a walkie-talkie and a 15-inch knife. As the victim arrived, Lopez-Abrego made contact with him, stabbing him through the chest with the knife, the informant said. A motive in the killing hasn’t yet been disclosed by officials as the investigation continues.
3. Lopez-Abrego Was Arrested in North Carolina With 2 Other MS-13 Members
On September 29, Lopez-Abrego was pulled over by Montgomery County Police officers as a passenger in a vehicle being driven by another MS-13 member. The driver was wanted for murder charges in Ann Arundel County. As part of the arrest, Lopez-Abrego was taken in for questioning and was asked about the murder of the victim found in the park. He denied any involvement in the incident and was released from police custody.
Investigators wanted him in for questioning at a later date, but efforts to find him were unsuccessful. Authorities noted in the arrest warrant that his whereabouts were “unknown until November 4.”
On that date, Lopez-Abrego was found in North Carolina with two other MS-13 members who lived in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area. Both of them were wanted on murder arrest warrants and were taken into custody with Lopez-Abrego.
A search of Maryland’s court records show that the only other thing Lopez-Abrego has on his criminal record is a citation for theft. He was cited on October 24, 2016 in Montgomery County for theft of less than $100. The case is still pending as of November 22.
4. The Victim Is Believed to Be of Hispanic Descent
Police say the victim was possibly from the Annapolis area, and has been described as a Hispanic male standing about 5-foot-2 and weighing around 126 pounds. Investigators believe the victim had short brown hair and a missing lower tooth.
The unidentified victim was found in the grave wearing a gray sweatshirt with the words, “First United Methodist Church Laurel” written on the chest. He was also wearing a rosary necklace, black Adam Levine sweatpants with shorts on underneath and black ankle socks at the time of his death. Police released photos of the clothes the man was wearing to the public September 22 in an effort to identify him.
Anyone with information regarding the case has been asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. Or you can contact the Crime Solvers of Motgomery County at 1-666-411-TIPS (8477).
5. Federal Agencies Have Cracked Down on MS-13 in Recent Months
As part of a national effort targeting people specifically affiliated with MS-13, ICE has arrested 38 people within the past month in Maryland and Northern Virginia, the agency said in a press release.
Officials say that three alleged gang members were arrested in Virginia on immigration violations while the other 35 were taken into custody in Maryland. Last fall, four MS-13 gang members from Annapolis were accused of attempted murder in an effort to join the gang or maintain their status within the gang.
The arrests were part of “Operation Raging Bull,” a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Secutiry. From October 8-November 11, 214 people believed to be members of the violent gang were arrested.
“We will not rest until every member, associate and leader of MS-13 has been held accountable for their crimes,” Director of ICE Thomas Horman said during a July 27 White House press briefing.
Since he took office January 20, President Donald Trump has made it a priority to direct federal officials to put additional resources toward efforts to take down gangs. On July 28, Trump said during a speech in front of law enforcement officials: “We’re going to destroy” MS-13.
“They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob,” Trump said during his speech at Suffolk County Community College. “They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs, they slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.”
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