40 years in tor­ture, death

Vi­cious gang slay­ing video­taped on cell­phone

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

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.

Maria Reyes

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

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