Home News MS-13 participant in brutal Long Island park quadruple homicide pleads guilty

MS-13 participant in brutal Long Island park quadruple homicide pleads guilty

A onetime member of Long Island’s most violent criminal organization pleaded guilty Wednesday to his role in the brutal 2017 murders of rival gang members who were lured to a suburban wooded park where they were hacked and bludgeoned to death.

Nearly seven years after Edwin Rodriguez tried to boost his status in the notorious MS-13 gang, the 24-year-old confessed to a federal judge that he participated in the grisly deaths of four suspected rival gang members who supposedly disrespected MS-13 in their social media postings.

The victims were lured to a wooded park in Central Islip by MS-13 members under the guise of smoking marijuana.

There in the dark, Rodriguez and nearly a dozen other MS-13 members armed with machetes, knives, an ax and wooden clubs and surrounded the victims — Justin Llivicura, 16,Jorge Tigre, 18, Michael Lopez Banegas, 20, and Jefferson Villalobos, 18 — and attacked them, prosecutors said.

Villalobos, Banegas’ cousin, was visiting the area from Pompano Beach, Fla, officials said. He was identified in part by a tattoo he had on his arm, officials said.

Their bodies were discovered the next evening.

A man walks past police tape near a crime scene in Central Islip, N.Y., Thursday, April 13, 2017. Police say the bodies of four apparent homicide victims have been found in a Long Island park. The victims were found in a wooded area near a recreation center in Central Islip. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A man walks past police tape near a crime scene in Central Islip, N.Y., on April 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“I just had a knife,” Rodriguez told Circuit Court Judge Joseph Bianco, according to Newsday.

He detailed how he and another associate repeatedly stabbed one of the victims while others in his group beat the other three victims to death.

The carnage would have been even worse if one of the targets hadn’t gotten away. Cops said the fifth target, Alexander Arteaga-Ruiz,  escaped the attack by jumping a fence and a stone wall.

“After we saw the four dead people, we realized there was one missing,” Rodriguez said.

Two girls associated with the gang lured the victims to the park, officials said.

The victims’ families have denied they had ties to any street gangs.

Rodriguez was 17 at the time of the murders. After the massacre, he fled to his native El Salvador, where he was arrested in 2019 before being extradited to the United States in 2022.

His guilty plea marked the first time Rodriguez was publicly identified in connection with the murders. His identity had been sealed because he was a minor at the time of the murders. As part of his plea, Rodriguez  agreed to be transferred to adult status.

Rodriguez was the final participant to admit to his role in the grisly slayings. He pleaded guilty to racketeering and faces up to life in prison.

Among those already serving time for the crime is Leniz Escobar, an  MS-13 associate known as “Diablita,” or “Little Devil.” Escobar, 22, along with Keyli Gomez convinced the five young targets to meet them in the park where members of MS-13 were lying in wait, prosecutors said.

Gomez testified that she and Escobar — who was 17 at the time — drove the men to the park on April 11, 2017.


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