THE BRONX (PIX11) — In a major development Wednesday, four members of the Trinitarios gang pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the fatal 2018 stabbing of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, two weeks after a fifth man, Jose Tavarez, had quietly made the same plea.
The guilty pleas were part of a deal with the office of Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, which has already won murder convictions against seven gang members, including the five stabbers and two leaders of the Los Sures set.
“The defendants’ actions culminated in the brutal attack on Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman,” Clark said. “They, along with seven other defendants, have been held accountable in the killing of the 15-year-old boy, which horrified the Bronx and beyond. Since Junior was taken from his family, we have been relentless to attain justice for him.”
The DA’s office was looking to avoid a third murder trial, set to start in January 2023. Danel Fernandez, a sixth defendant who allegedly dragged Junior out of the Bathgate Avenue bodega on June 20, 2018, refused to take a deal that would involve an 18 year prison term.
The four men who pleaded guilty Wednesday–Ronald Urena, Luis Cabrera Santos, Gabriel Ramirez Concepcion, and Danilo Payamps Pacheco—face less time in prison when they’re sentenced in January.
PIX11 News was in the courtroom when Danilo Payamps Pacheco, who was seen getting out of a car that was chasing Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz in 2018, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the lesser charge of manslaughter in the first degree.
The decision allows Payamps Pacheco, now 26, to avoid a murder trial that could have carried a 25 year to life sentence upon conviction. He’s been in jail since July 2018, when he turned himself in to police.
Assistant Bronx District Attorney Morgan Dolan told Judge Ralph Fabrizio the deal involved “12 years incarceration, followed by five years post release supervision.”
Santos and Concepcion will also be sentenced to 12 years in prison, as part of the deal. Urena will be sentenced to 15 years in prison, the same sentence Tavarez is expected to get. All five of the men who took plea deals will also face five years of post-release supervision.
The Junior case made international headlines when Trinitarios gang members were captured on surveillance chasing 15-year-old Junior in the Belmont section of the Bronx, before dragging him out of a bodega and then fatally stabbing him with knives and a machete.
Prosecutors had already won convictions in the first trial, in 2019, against the five men who stabbed “Junior.” The pandemic delayed the second trial by more than two years, with two gang leaders of the Los Sures set convicted in 2022 for ordering Trinitarios members to hunt rivals. Police said Junior was a victim of mistaken identity.
Danilo Payamps Pacheco wore glasses and a beard when he appeared in court Wednesday, dressed in a crisp white T-shirt and orange, prison pants. He expressed concerns, through his attorney, about not wanting to cut his hair when he goes to state prison.
Judge Fabrizio asked him, “Did you, acting in concert with other individuals, with intent to cause serious physical injury, cause the death of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz by stabbing him about his neck and body?”
Even though Payamps Pacheco hesitated in his response, he replied “yes.”
Payamps Pacheco did not stab the teenager on the night of June 20, 2018. But his guilty plea Wednesday was an admission that he was part of the gang that chased Junior, with the intent to seriously hurt him, a chase that resulted in the teenager’s brutal death.
Wednesday’s guilty pleas brought another chapter in the Junior case to a close. It remains to be seen if Fernandez and prosecutors can reach a deal before a January trial. Patrick Higgins, the attorney for Fernandez, told PIX11 News in court Monday his client would be willing to plead guilty to manslaughter in the first degree if his sentence is 15 years in prison.