CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (PIX11) — It was a horrific double murder in Brentwood of two teenage girls by members of the MS-13 gang that still sparks emotions, seven years later. On Thursday, those emotions were in full view when a key member of the gang pleaded guilty to the double homicide, as well as other deadly crimes. The details left relatives of the victims so overcome, that they walked out of the courtroom in tears.
Enrique Portillo, 26, uttered three simple, but vital words early on in the mid-afternoon court hearing in Central Islip. “I am guilty,” he said, plainly, through a Spanish language interpreter.
The hearing went on to detail his many crimes.
Portillo, also known as “Turkey” and “Oso,” pled to two felony counts, and each count had many crimes attached to it.
The first was racketeering. He admitted that he was involved with a criminal organization, MS-13, and with that gang, he carried out four murders, including those of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens. He also was involved in four attempted murders, as well as an incident in which gang members doused a rival’s car with gasoline, and set it on fire, causing it to explode, prosecutors said.
Portillo also pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm in relation to two of the attempted murders.
It was the killings of the two girls, though, that evoked emotion in the courtroom on Thursday afternoon.
The girls, who were best friends, had been spotted walking down a street by a group of MS-13 members who were riding around the town of Brentwood, in September of 2016. Cuevas, federal prosecutors said in court, had recently been in an argument with some MS-13 members at school.
Portillo was made aware of the in-school dispute, and got out of the vehicle with others, and they all beat and slashed the two girls severely with baseball bats and a machete. The blunt force was so intense, prosecutors said in court, that the “bat actually broke” in Portillo’s hands.
That detail brought four relatives of both girls to tears in the courtroom. They walked out from the front row of the gallery in a quiet, but clear, show of emotion.
That departure came after Portillo had said in Spanish through an interpreter, “I’m very sorry for my actions.”
After the hearing, one of the people who’d walked out of court, who identified herself as the aunt of Mickens, had only a terse response when asked if Portillo’s plea and apology provided any kind of solace.
“I have no comment on that,” she said.
The woman declined to give her name, but acknowledged that hearing the details of her niece’s murder was an emotional ordeal.
“We take it one day at a time,” she said.
Portillo faces up to life in prison as a possible sentence for the crimes. His sentencing date is set for Jan. 19, 2024.