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High-ranking MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to eight murders, including teenage girls on Long Island

High-ranking MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to eight murders, including teenage girls on Long Island

Alexi Saenz pleaded guilty to the murder of two Long Island teenagers in 2016.

Alexi Saenz, a high-ranking member of the MS-13 gang, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip, New York, to organized crime charges related to eight murders.

As part of an agreement, he faces a prison sentence of between 40 and 70 years, prosecutors said.

Among the deaths to which Saenz pleaded guilty were those of two Long Island teenagers – 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens – who were killed in September 2016. Prosecutors said several gang members chased them and attacked them with baseball bats and a machete.

Prosecutors said the teens’ murders stemmed from a series of arguments and a confrontation Cuevas and her friends had with individuals associated with MS-13 at Brentwood High School. After the confrontation, the gang members “vowed to seek revenge on Cuevas,” prosecutors said.

Saenz was arrested in 2017 along with several other alleged MS-13 gang members for the teens’ murders. Charges are still pending against his brother Jairo Saenz, who was also arrested at the time.

“To say that Alexi Saenz’s hands are soaked in blood does not begin to describe the numerous murders and extreme mayhem he personally ordered and committed in Suffolk County over the course of a year,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a press release Wednesday. “Although these murders and violent crimes were intended to further MS-13’s sordid mission, the defendant failed miserably.”

Prosecutors had initially sought the death penalty for the two Saenz brothers, but Attorney General Merrick Garland said they would no longer seek this in 2023.

The murders of the two girls attracted national attention; then-President Donald Trump invited the parents to his 2018 State of the Union address.

“Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens,” Trump said during his speech. “Their two teenage daughters – Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens – were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two wonderful girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the brutal MS-13 gang have been charged with the murders of Kayla and Nisa.”

Saenz was charged in connection with the murders of six other people. According to prosecutors, MS-13 members suspected all of being connected to rival gangs.

Prosecutors described Saenz as one of the leaders of these murders, often giving his gang mates instructions or the green light to carry out the attacks.

Saenz was also charged with three counts of attempted murder, arson, drug trafficking and weapons offenses.

Robert E. Waring, acting police chief of Suffolk County, called Saenz’s crimes “senseless and barbaric.”

“The murders of teenagers Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens have shocked our communities and reverberated across the country,” Waring said. “I hope this guilty plea provides closure for the victims’ families while demonstrating our commitment to dismantling this criminal enterprise.”