A body found in a Long Island preserve may be a victim of the notorious MS-13 street gang, officials said Saturday.
The remains were found in the Massapequa Preserve Friday as police were excavating an area near a path, Nassau County Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said at a Saturday press conference near the site.
“We do believe that we know who this person is,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our investigation has identified people who were involved with this and we will work diligently with the district attorney’s office to bring them to justice.”
Nassau police have been searching the preserve since March 2017, when the body of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay was found there.
Authorities said gang members had lured Gonzales-Espantzay, then 19, into a car with the promise of pot and sex. Instead, they brought him to the Massapequa Preserve, hacked him to death with knives and machetes, and buried him there.
Two suspects have been linked to the murder of Gonzales-Espantzay, who was killed to boost their status within the gang, authorities said when the pair was arrested in August 2017.
As they were investigating murders and disappearances of teens linked to the criminal gang MS-13, cops learned that another body was buried in the preserve along with Gonzales-Espantzay’s remains.
“We have been back here multiple times, trying to identify where this person would be,” Fitzpatrick said, noting that cadaver dogs had repeatedly indicated human remains were buried in the area.
“Over time we have dug here twice,” the detective lieutenant said. “Two of our detectives have raked about an acre of land here, trying to see if any of the ground had been disturbed.” The body was found a short distance from where Gonzales-Espantzay’s remains were recovered.
Fitzpatrick said they would not release the name of the victim found on Friday until the Nassau County Medical Examiner made an official identification.
MS-13 has been blamed for more than 30 murders on Long Island since 2013. Scrutiny on the gang has intensified in the past few years as more brutal crimes were associated with it.
In July 2017, an indictment charged 20 MS-13 members and associates with crimes ranging from murder to racketeering and arson, officials said. One month earlier, cops in Nassau County rounded up 41 suspected gang members linked to 32 crimes.
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