40 years in torture, death
Vicious gang slaying videotaped on cellphone
For the ninth time, Maria Reyes slipped into the witness stand in a Fairfax County, Virginia courtroom to confront one of the MS-13 associates who had abducted her 15-year-old daughter, brutally tortured her, then left her broken body face down in a puddle.
Reyes stared unflinching at Venus Romero Iraheta, 18, a few feet away, at her sentencing hearing Friday.
Iraheta had orchestrated the killing of Damaris Reyes Rivas, telling the Gaithersburg, Md., teen she would see her in hell before plunging a hunting knife into her repeatedly in January 2017.
Reyes told a prosecutor she had one final message.
“I want to say to this young lady that she destroyed my life. She destroyed the life of my daughter. She didn’t owe anything to you,” Reyes said through a translator. “My daughter is not in hell, as she said. She’s in heaven. She has shown me that in my dreams ... Hell will be lived by you, not by her.”
Soon after, a judge imposed a sentence of 40 years in prison on
Iraheta, the most high-profile defendant in a slaying so horrific it drew national attention and was used by the Trump administration to grimly highlight the resurgence of MS-13 in the District of Columbia area and beyond.
Ten associates of MS-13 have been convicted for the vicious attack in wooded areas of Springfield, Virginia. Damaris’ harrowing final minutes were captured in cellphone videos, later discovered by police.
Iraheta, whose body shook with grief through much of the hearing, testified that she was remorseful for what she had done.
“I know I have made the worst mistake of my life,” Iraheta said. “At night, while I’m sleeping I will wake up with these memories. They will come to me full force. I wish I could push them away.”
Damaris’ slaying played out on the frigid afternoon of Jan. 8, 2017. Iraheta blamed Damaris for helping lure her boyfriend and MS-13 associate, Christian Sosa Rivas, to his death roughly a week earlier.
Sosa Rivas, who claimed he was the leader of the Harrison clique, was killed by other MS-13 members, possibly because they thought he was falsely claiming his title. Federal prosecutors are pursuing a separate case in that slaying.
Damaris was lured to Lake Accotink Park in Springfield under the pretense of smoking marijuana. When she arrived, the 10 MS-13 associates between the ages of 15 and 21 walked her into the woods and began interrogating her about the killing of Sosa Rivas.
The ghoulish cellphone videos, which were played following Iraheta’s plea hearing, capture the moment.
Damarais was taken to a
“I want to say to this young lady that she destroyed my life. She destroyed the life of my daughter.
second location and partly stripped, before being driven to a third spot.
Some gang members left, while others punched and kicked Damaris. After awhile, Iraheta climbed on top of Damaris and asked her if she had slept with Sosa Rivas, prosecutors said. Damaris admitted she had and asked for forgiveness, but prosecutors said Iraheta flew into a rage.
“‘You’re going to remember me until the day we see each other in hell,’” Iraheta said she told Damaris. “Don’t forget my name,’ and I told her my full name... I told her to never forget who I was.”
A Fairfax County detective then asked what happened next. Iraheta replied in English: “I killed her.”
The FBI agent testified at a preliminary hearing that Iraheta sliced a tattoo off Damaris and plunged the knife into her 13 times. As Damaris lay on the ground, another MS-13 member stabbed her with a large tree branch.
Another MS-13 associate enters the video frame and jabs a bloody stick into her neck again and again, before the video abruptly ends.
Some MS-13 associates returned to the scene later that night and dumped Damaris’ body facedown in a puddle of water, where she was discovered there about a month later by police.
VENUS R. IRAHETA
DAMARIS R. RIVAS