Body count tied to MS-13 grow­ing in New York sub­urbs

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By Frank Elt­man

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.

Frank Elt­man The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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