Body count tied to MS-13 growing in New York suburbs
BRENTWOOD, N.Y. — Angel Soler’s mother brought him to the U.S. as a young boy, figuring things surely would be better than in Honduras, where he had lived in one of the world’s most violent cities. Javier Castillo’s father made the same calculation when he took his young son out of gang-plagued El Salvador.
Life in the leafy Long Island suburbs of New York didn’t prove to be any safer.
The corpses of the two teenagers, the latest victims of suspected MS13 gang violence on Long Island, were found a few miles from each other in secluded areas late last month. Police also discovered the remains of another young man, Kerin Pineda, who, like Soler, formerly had attended Freeport High School.
Their fates match those of many of the more than two dozen people believed to have been killed by the gang in the New York suburbs in the past two years: They were Central Americans who came to the U.S. as children seeking a better life, then vanished, only to be found slain months later.
“Destroyed,” Castillo’s distraught father, Santos Ernesto Castillo, said Wednesday outside the funeral home where his son’s wake was being held. “I don’t have another word. Destroyed, because one brings his sons here to achieve their best, and this happens.”
A handful of friends and relatives attended Castillo’s wake at a funeral home in Brentwood. His father, a former police officer in El Salvador, asked that his photograph not be taken because he feared for other members of his family. Castillo’s aunt proudly held a photograph of her nephew, smiling from a day he spent at Robert Moses beach on Long Island.
Castillo was 16 when he vanished on Oct. 11, 2016.
“Over four months, every night we were out looking for him thinking maybe we would see him, but that did not happen,” his father told reporters in Spanish. “I thought the police were doing something, but they let too much time pass.”
The teen’s remains were found more than a year later on Oct. 24 in a marshy area of a waterfront park in Freeport, more than 25 miles from his home. Police haven’t revealed what led them to the body or when they think he died.
Maria Lezema holds a photograph of her nephew, Javier Castillo, on Wednesday in Brentwood, N.Y. Castillo’s body was found in a secluded area of Long Island late last month.