US

MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to 50 Years for Murder of 14-Year-Old Girl

By Paula Liu

One of four teen MS-13 gang members has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for his role in the April 2019 killing of a 14-year-old Maryland girl.

Josue Fuentes-Ponce, 17, pleaded guilty on Oct. 30, 2019, to first-degree murder, participating in and committing the murder as part of a criminal gang, and conspiracy to commit murder, reported NBC Washington.

Prosecutors said Fuentes-Ponce, then 16; Edwin Rios, then 18; Joel Escobar, then 17; and Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi, then 14, lured Ariana Funes-Diaz into the woods in Riverdale, Maryland, and beat and stabbed her to death with a machete and baseball bat.

Funes-Diaz’s parents reported her missing and her body was found floating in a creek about a month later. An autopsy determined that the teen died of blunt force trauma, the Prince George County Police Department said.

Fuentes-Ponce used a machete to kill the girl, which was so violent that police used a tattoo on her right hand to identify her remains, reported NBC. The teens reportedly killed that Funes-Diaz to prevent her from reporting a robbery they committed the day prior.

(L-R) Josue Fuentes-Ponce, Joel Escobar, and Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi. (Prince George’s County Police Department via AP)
Edwin Rios - m313 arrests
Edwin Rios, 18, in a booking photo. (Prince George County Police Department)

Escobar, of Northeast Washington, pleaded guilty in November and will be sentenced on Feb. 26. Rios, of Southeast Washington, has a trial scheduled for April, and Hernandez-Nucamendi, of Lothian, Maryland, was tried in a juvenile court, reported Fox.

Fuentes-Ponce and Escobar, both Salvadorean nationals illegally present in the United States, were previously arrested or attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, participation in gang activity, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted robbery, and other related charges, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). But they were released by the Prince George County Detention Center after officials there failed to obey an ICE detainer.

“As law enforcement officers, we must continue to serve and protect the American public and act in the interest of public safety first. These individuals had demonstrated violent criminal behavior before, and because they were released in spite of the lawful detainer, they were afforded and opportunity to take a life,” ICE said in a news release.