CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — An MS-13 gang member extradited from Guatemala was arraigned in a New York court Friday in the 2017 deaths of four people — three of them teenagers.
Officials said the man fled the U.S. after he allegedly killed Justin Llivicura, Michael Lopez, Jorge Tigre and Jefferson Villalobos on April 11, 2017.
The individual charged with the murders was later identified by court officials Friday as Henry Edenilson Salmeron, age 22.
Officials said Salmeron was charged back in July 2017 and was arrested in Guatemala in February 2021 before his extradition.
“Although this defendant sought to evade answering for these horrific crimes by fleeing more than 3,000 miles from the Central Islip park where he and his fellow MS-13 gang members callously slaughtered four young men, the relentless determination of our law enforcement partners led to his capture and extradition, and he will now face justice in a courthouse that overlooks that very same park,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis.
The bodies of the four victims were discovered on April 13 in a Central Islip Recreational Center Park, each of them found with “significant trauma.”
The victims were identified as Lopez (Identified then as Lopez Banegas), 20, of Brentwood, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, of Pompano, Fla. Villalobos was visiting New York for his spring break vacation, his family said.
The youngest victim was 16-year-old Justin Llivicura, of East Patchogue. His friend Jorge Tigre, 18, of Belport, was also killed.
All four suffered “significant trauma,” and were killed with a sharp or edged instrument, police said at the time.
The killings were consistent with other MS-13 gang murders, according to local police, and offered a “stark reminder” that at that time, the community was considered to be at war with the gang.
“This is a long-term war. And make no mistake about it. This is a war,” then-Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said in 2017.
MS-13 is a “transnational” street gang connected to a slew of deaths on Long Island in the past year.
“They engage in acts of violence; they engage in acts of savagery against folks who can’t defend themselves as well as others in our community,” Sini said following the discovery of the bodies.
He said part of the gang’s “trademark” is to “prey on recent immigrants.”
Officials gave new details into the killings on Friday:
On the evening of April 11, 2017, two female associates of the MS-13 lured five young men, including Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos, to a community park in Central Islip, so that Salmeron and other MS-13 members and associates could attack and kill them. The victims were believed to be rival gang members who were disrespectful toward the MS-13. Salmeron and numerous other MS-13 members and associates met in the park where they distributed weapons and discussed the plan to kill the victims. Once the female MS-13 associates led the men to a wooded area, Salmeron and the other MS-13 members and associates surrounded, attacked and killed Llivicura, Lopez, Tigre and Villalobos, using machetes, knives, wooden clubs and an axe. The fifth intended victim escaped. The victims’ bodies were discovered the following evening.
Salmeron is the ninth MS-13 member or associate to be charged publicly with the April 11, 2017 murders, officials said Friday; six of those defendants are pending trial. Josue Portillo and Freiry Martinez previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 55 and 50 years in prison, respectively.
Several law enforcement agencies on the local, state and federal level were involved in the investigation and/or prosecution.
Anthony DiLorenzo contributed.