You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 2, 2022

MS-13 Members Sentenced for Kidnapping and Murdering Two Juveniles

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Five members of the transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have received sentences of life imprisonment for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of two adolescent boys in 2016.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, MS-13 gang members Elmer Zelaya Martinez, Ronald Herrera Contreras, Henry Zelaya Martinez, Pablo Velasco Barrera, and Duglas Ramirez Ferrera, along with their co-conspirators, targeted E.E.E.M., a 17-year-old resident of Falls Church, who they erroneously suspected was a member of the rival 18th Street gang. On the night of August 28, 2016, the gang lured E.E.E.M. to Holmes Run Stream Valley Park in Fairfax County under the pretense that there was going to be a gang meeting there. Instead, in a wooded area of the park, gang members restrained, attacked, and killed E.E.E.M., stabbing and chopping him more than 100 times with knives, a machete, and a pickaxe. Afterwards, the gang broke one of E.E.E.M.’s legs so that his body would fit into the pre-dug hole that was nearby.

Court records and evidence presented at trial also established that the same gang members, along with their co-conspirators, targeted S.A.A.T., a 14-year-old resident of Alexandria, who they erroneously suspected was a police informant. On the evening of September 26, 2016, the gang told S.A.A.T. that there was going to be a gang meeting later that night and encouraged him to attend. Not long thereafter, S.A.A.T. went outside in his pajamas, telling his mother he was just taking out the trash. Eventually, several gang members picked up S.A.A.T. and drove him to the same park where they had killed E.E.E.M. The gang members restrained, attacked, and killed S.A.A.T., stabbing and chopping him with knives, machetes, and a pickaxe. They also filmed the murder with a cell phone so that they could prove to gang leaders in the United States and in El Salvador that they deserved to be promoted in rank. Once S.A.A.T. was dead, the gang broke his legs and tied him up with his own pajama pants so that he would fit into the shallow grave that was dug for him that night.

“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. In the wake of their appallingly violent murders lie wrecked families and fear-stricken communities,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “The sentences of life imprisonment imposed by the court are fitting; they will protect the public from these five defendants, send a message to other members and associates of MS-13 that there will be severe consequences for committing violent crimes in furtherance of their gang’s illicit activities, and provide a measure of justice for the victims and their families. EDVA remains steadfast in its commitment to prosecuting members of street gangs and deterring acts of violence perpetrated in their name.”

“Brutality is the hallmark of MS-13. The defendants kidnapped and murdered two innocent teenagers, shattering their dreams and stoking 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. “This joint investigation demonstrates the FBI and our law enforcement partners' refusal to tolerate violent gang members who terrorize our neighborhoods and ruthlessly murder rival gang members and innocent civilians.”

“This is a profoundly disturbing case involving gang members taking the lives of young members of our community. We are proud to work with our Federal partners on cases like this to keep Fairfax County and surrounding communities safe,” said Kevin Davis, Fairfax County Chief of Police.

To date, a total of 17 defendants have been charged in this case, five of whom went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Nine defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial. See the table below for additional information on the defendants who were convicted at trial.

Name

Age

Country of Origin

Convictions

Sentence

Elmer Zelaya Martinez

31

El Salvador

Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to kidnap; murder in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping resulting in death

Sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all to run concurrently

Ronald Herrera Contreras

24

El Salvador

Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to kidnap; murder in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping resulting in death

Sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all to run concurrently

Henry Zelaya Martinez

28

El Salvador

Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to kidnap; murder in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping resulting in death

Sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all to run concurrently

Pablo Velasco Barrera

24

El Salvador

Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to kidnap; murder in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping resulting in death

Sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all to run concurrently

Duglas Ramirez Ferrera

26

El Salvador

Conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to kidnap; murder in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping resulting in death

Sentenced to six terms of life imprisonment and two terms of 120 months, all to run concurrently

 

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Kevin Davis, Fairfax County Chief of Police, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Rossie D. Alston, Jr.

The FBI Washington Field Office, the Fairfax County Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Washington Field Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alexandria Police Department, the Prince William County Police Department, the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department, and the Marin County (CA) Sheriff’s Office provided significant assistance on the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander E. Blanchard and Cristina C. Stam and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebeca H. Bellows prosecuted the case.

The case was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-123.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
USAVAE.Press@usdoj.gov
Updated November 2, 2022