CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A reputed Long Island gang member who was added to the FBI’s most-wanted list last week pleaded not guilty Monday to the 2010 execution-style killings of his girlfriend and her toddler son.
As WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported, Juan Elias Garcia surrendered to authorities in Nicaragua on Thursday.
FBI agents say Garcia, 21, and three other MS-13 gang members were involved in the killing of 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta in February 2010 because she disrespected a fellow gang member that she once dated. They allegedly decided to also kill 2-year-old Diego Torres out of concern he would one day grow up to seek revenge, Xirinachs reported.
Garcia asked Argueta to dinner, but instead lured her and the toddler into a wooded area in Central Islip, where they were shot to death by two other gang members, the FBI said. Argueta was shot in the head and chest, and when the child clung to Garcia’s leg, the toddler was shot in the head as well, officials said.
Joshua Argueta, Vanessa’s brother, told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera he was not surprised Garcia pleaded not guilty to charges that include racketeering and murder conspiracy. The suspect, who was ordered to be held without bail, showed no emotion during his appearance in federal court in Central Islip.
“If we wants to plead not guilty, then let the work begin,” Argueta said.
Relatives and supporters of the victims filled four rows in the courtroom and openly wept.
Joshua Argueta remembered the victims as kind, loving people.
Diego “was a very happy little boy, and she was like the best sister ever,” Joshua Argeto said.
Garcia turned himself in a day after being added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He voluntarily returned to the United States Friday to face charges.
He gave himself up to authorities in Nicaragua at the urging of family members after the FBI informed them that unscrupulous bounty hunters might resort to violence to gain information on his whereabouts, Xirinachs reported. There was a $100,000 reward being offered for information leading to his arrest
One alleged gang member, who pleaded guilty to the murders, and another, who was convicted by a jury, are awaiting sentencing. A third person charged in connection with the murders was sentenced to three terms of life in prison, plus 60 years.
Garcia faces life in prison if he’s convicted.
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