Two MS-13 gang members have been charged with killing a Greenlawn teen whose mutilated body was found next to a concession stand at a Little League baseball complex in the community, Suffolk prosecutors said Friday.
Elmer Gilberto Santos Contreras, 23, of Roosevelt pleaded not guilty to a single count of second-degree murder in the Aug. 20, 2016, death of Estiven Abrego Gomez, 18. A co-defendant, Anthony Gutierrez Meza, 23, of Valley Stream, is in custody in Virginia and will be arraigned when he is extradited to Suffolk County, Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Kearon said.
Suffolk County Court Judge Philip Goglas ordered Contreras held without bail.
Kearon said the injuries to Abrego Gomez were severe.
“Both of the victim’s hands were essentially severed,” she said, and the flurry of blade injuries left him unrecognizable.
Kearon said Contreras signed a written statement in which he admitted ordering the killing of Abrego Gomez after the victim was seen on social media flashing signs associated with the rival 18th Street gang.
Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini would not say if Abrego Gomez was a gang member, but added: “The defendants certainly believed that he was.”
He would not say who actually carried out the killing, and called Contreras a “dangerous, homicidal sociopath.”
Both defendants were held in Virginia by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers after being arrested on unrelated charges there. Contreras pleaded guilty to sexual battery in 2017 in Virginia, Kearon said.
Contreras’ defense attorney, Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge, said his client says he had nothing to do with the killing, and said he had no idea what was in the written statement he signed. Gioe said the statement is in English, a language Contreras does not know.
“This is a good day for public safety,” Sini said after the Friday morning arraignment in Riverhead. “This is a good day for Greenlawn.”
Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Abrego Gomez’s death “is an unfortunate reminder of this gang’s ruthless ways,” but she said Suffolk police would pursue any murder case as far as possible.
“The world becomes a very small place when the Suffolk County Police Department is looking for you,” she said.
Sini credited police efforts for reducing gang violence in Suffolk.
“We have MS-13 on the run,” he said. “We’re not going to take our foot off the gas. Our goal is to eradicate them from our communities.”