The four victims killed in an infamous MS-13 gang ambush were “just high school students” who “tried to look tough” by flashing gang signs, the FBI said during Monday’s trial of a female Long Island suspect named ” Little Devil”.
Defendant Leniz “Diablita” Escobar, 22, allegedly tipped off the notoriously vicious gang about the victims’ perceived “deep sign of disrespect” — and lured the young men to their deaths, all in an effort to please to get to the killers, Assistant US Attorney Megan Farrell said during opening statements in Central Islip.
“When they were killed, [the victims] wailed in pain and filled the park with their terrified cries,” the prosecutor said.
The lone survivor of the 2017 massacre — identified only as “Alex” by prosecutors — took the stand Monday.
“Alex wasn’t in the gang,” Farrell said. “He wasn’t in MS-13, but he did post pictures of him and his friends holding up the signs and posing as members of MS-13.
“They were just high school students,” she said. “They were trying to look tough and get attention. The members of MS-13 saw these photos on social media and saw these photos as a deep sign of disrespect, enough to warrant death.
“The crew of the MS-13 came out of the darkness and shouted orders that they should all get to the ground,” she said. “The defendant pretended to be one of the victims and went downstairs. The real victims ran, but Alex was the only one quick enough to escape. The other four were chopped to death.”
Escobar is charged with murder, extortion and conspiracy in the April 11, 2017 attack in a Central Islip park, where the mutilated bodies of the victims were later found.
Police say Michael Lopez, 20, Justin Llivicura, 16, Jorge Tigre, 18, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18, were killed in the massacre.
In court, Escobar wore tight black pants, a black shirt and a white-and-black jacket with a herringbone pattern.
“Great day,” she heard her lawyers say at one point.
Farrell said the next day, Escobar “bragged about her significant role in the murders” and told her friend that a victim had escaped.
“The day after the murders, she told her boyfriend that four trains had left but one had escaped,” Farrell said.
Escobar told her boyfriend “she did it to be happy so she could be happy,” the prosecutor said.
Farrell said Escobar lied to police and attempted to destroy evidence by throwing her cell phone from a moving car as police followed her.
Alex, who showed up at the local police station with distraught relatives of the victims to report them missing, later led authorities to the bloody scene.
†[The victims] were towed,” Nassau County Detective Donal Britton testified Monday. “Their shirts were pulled around their necks. They lay on top of each other. There was a lot of blood. Yes, they were dead.”
Relatives of the victims moaned in court when a photo of the murder scene was shown.
Attorney Keith White said in his opening statements that his client was unaware that the victims would be attacked.
“Leniz didn’t know much about the attackers or whether these men were going to be killed,” White said.
He said Escobar’s companion, who allegedly helped lead the men to their deaths, as well as two of the accused attackers had made agreements with prosecutors to testify in exchange for lenient sentences.
Escobar’s trial is expected to last three to four weeks.