LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (PIX11) — Juan Elias Garcia was only 17-years-old when he invited his estranged girlfriend, 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta, on a dinner date in Central Islip. She brought along her two-year old-son, Diego, because she didn’t have a babysitter.Very soon, mother and son would end up dead, executed in the woods.
Garcia, now 21, was put on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list Wednesday. Agents said he’s a member of the violent street gang, MS-13, and targeted Argueta for death because he thought she gave up information to rival street thugs from the 18th Street Gang and the Latin Kings.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge, George Venizelos, said at a press conference that Garcia and three accomplices lured Argueta and her son into the Central Islip woods on Long Island.
“They proceeded to shoot Vanessa twice, in the head and the chest,” Venizelos said.
What followed next was even more horrific, Venizelos noted.
When little Diego started crying for his mother, the accomplices shot him in the head.
But Venizelos recounted, “The first shot did not kill little Diego, who fell to the ground and stood back up. He clutched Garcia’s leg, because he knew him. Adalberto Ariel Guzman then fired a second shot that struck Torres in the head and killed him.”
The FBI believes Garcia, who is 5’4” and weighs about 125 pounds, has fled the country. The native of Santa Rosa de Lima, El Salvador was last spotted in Honduras in 2011, working as a laborer in a clothing store. His three accomplices have been arrested for the murders. Rene Mendez Mejia pleaded guilty. Guzman was convicted by a jury. Both are awaiting sentencing.
Heriberto Martinez has been sentenced to three life terms plus 60 years in prison for the murders and other crimes.
Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, called MS-13 an “international killing machine.” She pointed out “more than 150 MS-13 gang members have been prosecuted on federal racketeering crimes,” and that’s resulted in a drop in homicides in their strongholds of Long Island and Queens.
The U.S. Attorney’s office waited until Garcia turned 21 in February this year to indict him for the murders, because the government didn’t want Elias Garcia receiving “juvenile protection” status.
Vanessa Arqueta’s father sat silently at the press conference, while the FBI announced Garcia’s naming to the “Ten Most Wanted” list. And PIX 11 noticed a young man sitting beside him with long braids. When we approached to ask if he was young Diego’s father, he said “Yes, I am,” before FBI agents quickly led him away.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for any information that leads directly to the arrest of Juan Elias Garcia.