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Crime Watch

Roosevelt teen charged in MS-13 killing

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A Roosevelt teenager has been arrested and charged in connection with the alleged MS-13 murder of another Roosevelt teen whose body Nassau County police discovered in a secluded woodland two weeks ago. Officials announced the arrest late Thursday night.

Jose Lopez, 19, of Howard Avenue in Roosevelt, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the killing of Josue Amaya Lenor, who was found in a dense forest off the Meadowbrook Parkway in Roosevelt on May 30. According to police, Lopez, along with five other alleged MS-13 members, lured him into the woods with the promise of smoking marijuana. The gang members then hacked him to death with machetes and buried him there.

"These people knew him," said Nassau County police Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick. "He had changed schools and started posting social media posts in his new school with new associations with people he knew."

Fitzpatrick also said Amaya Leonor's new associations were identified as "chivalo," enemies of the gang. So before his death, Amaya Leonor was named an enemy of MS-13 and marked for death.

Amaya Leonor, who was 19 when killed, reportedly attended Freeport High School in August 2014 but transferred to Roosevelt High School in November 2015. At the time he went missing in September 2016, he was not a student in the Freeport School District, according to a Freeport Public Schools spokesperson.

Because of Lopez's arrest, police said they have more evidence on MS-13 and have been speaking to other persons of interest. Fitzpatrick said there are gang members affiliated with Amaya Lenor's murder in custody in Nassau County and elsewhere, but other suspects are still at large.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a news conference at the site on May 30 that there is “no doubt” the victim, who was discovered in a grave five feet deep on state-owned land, was murdered by a member or members of Mara Salvatrucha.

This is an “older murder,” Ryder said, adding that local residents should not be concerned for their safety. Still, Nassau police said they would step up patrols in the area.

The discovery of the body, a mile into the woods, brought the total number of young men allegedly killed by MS-13 in central Nassau to five in the past year or more.

The body was found following the arrest on the night of May 29 of Josue Figueroa-Velasquez, 18, of Freeport, who was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of 16-year-old Angel Soler, of Roosevelt. Soler was hacked to death with machetes. Also charged with second-degree murder in that case were David Sosa Guevara, 26, of Wyandanch, and Victor Lopez, 29, of Roosevelt. Police believe that Soler’s death is connected to MS-13.

In addition to Soler, three other teens are believed to have been killed by MS-13. The body of 19-year-old Kerin Pineda, of Freeport, was found in the woods between Freeport and Merrick, near the Sunrise Highway, last November. He, too, was hacked to death with machetes, according to authorities. Javier Castillo, of Central Islip, was found in Cow Meadow Park, at the southern end of South Main Street in Freeport, last October. And the remains of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, of Valley Stream, were discovered in the Massapequa Preserve, near Seaview and Ocean avenues, last March.