Long Island, NY, female MS-13 gang member ‘Little Devil’ is on trial for luring five teen boys to Long Island MS-13 massacre at a Suffolk County court
Leniz ‘la diablita’ Escobar is on trial on federal racketeering charges for allegedly luring four high school students to their deaths at the hands of MS-13 gang members on April 12 2017, aged 17
Leniz ‘Little Devil,’ Escobar, 22, lured five young men to a local park after lying to several MS-13 members, saying that the teens had ‘mocked them,’ a prosecutor said d
Her friend and companion on the day, Keily Gómez, 21, a friend of Escobar – who was nicknamed ‘la diablita’, or ‘Little Devil’ – testified that they both ‘crouched down … and watched as they were killed’
Keily Gómez, a self-confessed MS-13 gang member who’s serving time in prison, alleges her friend Escobar instigated the killings, before they were tasked with luring the boys
***Escobar and Gómez invited Michael Lopez Banega, 20, Justin Llivicura, 16, Jorge Tigre, 18, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, and Elma Alexander Artiaga-Ruíz to the Central Islip Recreation Center Park on April 12, 2017, to smoke marijuana
***On arrival the girls texted their location to a dozen MS-13 gang members who attacked the boys with machetes, bats and axes
Artiaga-Ruíz escaped, his four companions were butchered, Ruiz confirmed in his testimony
A prosecutor said Escobar – whose boyfriend was a high ranking member of the gang – smiled as Michael Lopez, 20, was hacked to death, blood splashing on her face and mouth
To counter defense argument that Escobar did not know that the boys would be attacked, prosecution submitted phone messages she sent to her boyfriend claiming ‘the kill’
Jury deliberations began Thursday
Prosecutors on Long Island said Wednesday that the woman known as ‘Diablita’ – the ‘Little Devil – who lured four teens to a local park where MS-13 gang members hacked them to death with machetes showed little compassion for the victims – and even licked their blood off her lips while watching the massacre.
Leniz ‘la diablita’ Escobar [Little Devil], is on trial on federal racketeering charges for allegedly luring four high school students to their deaths at the hands of MS-13 gang members on April 11, 2017, aged 17.
Escobar, 22, drew the young men to a local park after lying to the MS-13 members, saying that they had ‘mocked’ the gangsters, prosecutor Justina Geraci said during closing arguments in the trial, which wrapped up this week in Central Islip, New York.
‘You heard [MS-13 gang member] David Gaitan-Rivera’s testimony,’ Geraci told the jury of the 2017 slayings.
‘He told you how one of the victims had reached for [Escobar] before he was killed and his blood had gotten all over her shirt. He told you how she licked her lips.’
la diablita’s friend and fellow gang member Keily Gómez, testified that she and Escobar ‘crouched down by the victims and watched as they were killed. Not screaming or crying while the victims were macheted to death.’
Geraci also said Escobar, whose boyfriend Jeffrey Amador was a high ranking member of the gang, smiled as Michael Lopez, 20, was hacked to death.
While prosecutors were outlining their case one last time for the jury, Escobar was seen smiling and joking with her legal team, wearing her hair in a ponytail and chrome piercings on her cheeks.
Prosecutors say Lopez, 20, and three friends – Justin Llivicura, 16, Jorge Tigre, 18, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18 – were executed by the notorious gang.
Escobar is said to have snitched on the teens for claiming to have been MS-13 gang members on social media, with its real members deciding to execute them for it -deeming the social media boasting a show of disrespect.
They were also accused by the gang of being members of the rival 18th Street Gang.
The gang allegedly, targeted five boys. However of the intended victims, Elmer Alexander Artiaga-Ruíz, escaped and has testified against Escobar at trial.
Artiaga-Ruíz made it out alive by running for his life. According to his testimony, Escobar and her pal Keily Gómez brought them to a park to smoke marijuana as the gangsters waited to kill them. The girls then sent a text indicating their location to MS-13 members who were lying in ambush nearby.
Recalling the moment his friends were hacked to death, Artiaga-Ruíz told the court: ‘They came through a hole in the fence.
‘There were eight or nine. They covered their faces with sweaters. They came and formed a semi-circle. They told us get down on our knees.
‘They said, ‘Don’t move. Whoever moves, dies.
‘I ran because the first words they said was that we were going to die, they were going to kill us, and they had weapons…
‘I took off running and there were two people who started to follow me,’ he said. ‘Thank God I managed to escape.’
Ruiz said he and his friends had made the MS-13 posts in a bid to impress women and that he and his young pals were ‘just high school kids who were trying to look tough.’
‘[Artiaga-Ruíz,] was a poser and that’s why he was marked for death,’ Geraci said of Ruiz. ‘He thought this stuff would attract girls and it did – but not in the way he had hoped.’
Prosecutors say Escobar was 17 years old in April 2017, when she helped orchestrate the massacre as an associate of the notoriously ruthless gang before falsely claiming to be a victim in the ambush.
MS-13 had been seeking to settle a score, prosecutors allege, and believed the young victims – – to be members of the rival 18th Street Gang. The victims’ families have denied that any of the slain men were in a gang.
Escobar’s lawyers countered with the claim that she did not know the victims would be attacked. However, other prosecution witnesses included Escobar’s boyfriend, an MS-13 gang member, who said his then-17-year-old girlfriend told the gang “they were being overrun by ‘chivales’ [rivals] and they had no balls,” Geraci said.
Prosecutors also presented recorded phone calls Escobar had with her boyfriend, calling them “devastating” to her claim that she was innocent.
“She was telling her boyfriend exactly what happened,” Assistant US Attorney Paul Scotti told jurors.
“She told him she killed those four young men and she was happy about it. She was happy.”
Diablita’s attorneys have argued that she did not know the victims would be in any way attacked and that she was not a member or associate of the gang.
‘Not every girlfriend is an associate,’ defense attorney Jesse Siegel said. ‘Her boyfriend was a homeboy. She was there. She certainly didn’t prevent it from happening. The issue is if she knew something was going to happen.’
At one point the defense counsel accidentally said ‘you should find her guilty’ before correcting himself.
During opening statements on Monday, Assistant US Attorney Megan Farrell said that the victims were ‘just high school kids’ whose only crime was flashing MS-13 gang signs on social media to ‘look tough and get attention.’
Their macho posturing, however, was interpreted by the MS-13 cohorts as a sign of disrespect punishable by death.
According to prosecutors, Escobar, known then by her name on the street ‘Diabalita,’ or ‘Little Devil,’ was seeking to curry favor with MS-13 and alerted its members to the victims’ location in a wooden area.
Farrell described Escobar as a ‘devoted associate’ of the gang, where her boyfriend was a high-ranking member.
On April 11, 2017, the four victims founded themselves in a Central Islip park, surrounded by more than a dozen MS-13 gang members brandishing machetes, knives and tree limbs.
Farrell told the jury that the killers ordered the five high schoolers to get down on the ground.
‘The defendant pretended to be one of the victims and got down. The real victims took off running, but [Artega Ruiz] was the only one fast enough to escape. The other four were hacked to death,’ the prosecutor said, describing the victims’ terrified screams filling the night air.
Under MS-13 rules, the killings had been ‘pre-authorized’ by gang leadership, prosecutors said, and contributors to the carnage stood to gain membership or ascend the organization’s ranks.
Farrell said that a day after the slaughter, Escobar ‘bragged about her important role in the murders’ and told her boyfriend that ‘she did it to be happy and was happy it happened.’
Authorities said Escobar later tossed her cellphone from a moving vehicle — as well as a SIM card that had been removed and damaged so badly law enforcement couldn’t recover its contents.
‘Additionally, Escobar discarded the bloody clothing that she had been wearing on the night of the murders,’ prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
In his opening statement, Escobar’s defense attorney, Keith White, attempted to distance his client from the attackers and argued that she did not know that the victims would be killed.
On Day 1 of the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks, the jury also heard testimony from Nassau County Detective Donal Britton, who described the gruesome scene that officers came upon in the park after the killings.
‘They were lying on top of each other,’ he said of the victims. ‘There was a lot of blood.’
The jury began deliberations on Thursday morning
In her April 1, testimony in the Leniz Escobar trial, her old pal Keily Gómez portrayed the accused as a ruthless person. The witness, who is currently imprisoned in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center, recalled that, during the massacre and testifying under a plea arrangement said Escobar instigated the attack and “helped the gang out by taking the boys out to be killed,” during a hearing in Central Islip Federal Court.
Gómez, 21, a self-confessed member of MS-13 and a friend of ‘la diablita’, was referring to the execution of five young people killed at the Central Islip Recreation Center Park on April 12, 2017. Four of them died and one managed to escape
Gómez, who was 16 when the massacre occurred, adding that a week before the killings, she and ‘la diablita’ met with MS-13 gang members in a grocery store parking lot to show them photos of Elmer Alexander. Artiaga-Ruiz.
In the images, Artiaga-Ruíz, the only survivor of the massacre, appeared showing weapons, which they saw as a threat against the gang. Leniz Escobar was “angry” about the photos and said that it was “disrespectful to the gang,” to Gómez.
It was Escobar’s idea to show those photos to the gang members. Once there the group hatched the plan to kill Artiaga-Ruiz, perceived as a member of the rival 18th Street gang. The plan included having ‘la diablita’ invite Artiaga-Ruíz, along with four of his companions to the park under the pretext of smoking marijuana.
In a previous testimony another prosecution witness, Antonio Gaitán-Rivera, 23, a member of the MS-13 gang and who admitted to having a “sexual” physical relationship with ‘la diablita, while her boyfriend, Jeffrey Amador, was in prison, testified that Escobar told him some of the blood from one victim “had gotten on her lips, [and],she had licked it off.”
Outside the courthouse, Siegel, the defendants attorney said the jury should ignore the claims of gang members who cut deals to testify against Escobar.
“The jury should not rely on the witnesses that the government put forward, meaning these cooperating witnesses who are all extremely bad people who are testifying pursuant to cooperation agreements,” he said. Siegel was referring to Escobar’s companion, [Keily Gómez], who allegedly helped lead the men to their deaths, as well as two of the accused attackers had cut deals with prosecutors to testify in exchange for more lenient sentences.
His client he said, “had always wanted to have her day in court,” adding, “I think she’s satisfied that she’s had her day in court. And she is nervous, but looking forward to getting a verdict.”
Three months after the killings, in April 2017, seven were people charged with participating in the quadruple homicide, including Alexis Hernandez, 20, Santos Leonel Ortiz-Flores, 19, and Omar Antonio “Anticristo” Villata, 19, Antonio Gaitán-Rivera, 23, and Escobar’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Amador.
Six juveniles were also charged in the slaying, including the two girls, but through separate documents because of their age, at the time.