Crime Watch

Police, FBI investigate human remains found in Freeport-Merrick woods

Grim discovery is third in two weeks; gang involvement suspected


Authorities discovered human remains in the woods between Freeport and Merrick on Saturday morning.

On Friday afternoon and into the evening, FBI agents, New York State troopers and Nassau County police were combing through the woods along the Long Island Rail Road tracks between Commercial Street in Freeport and Babylon Turnpike in Merrick.

The Herald has reported extensively on this section of woods in the past as a place where teenagers congregate at night to party, and where a number of homeless live.

At a Saturday morning news conference, authorities announced that they had found remains, which were yet to be identified, and according to FBI officials, the discovery is believed to be gang-related.

“We have no information to suggest that this incident here was a random act,” said Michael Osborn, the FBI special agent in charge, at Saturday’s news conference. “We believe it is gang-related, and we will continue to pursue that.”

On Oct. 25, FBI and Nassau County police had discovered a body, possibly a victim of the notorious El Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, hidden in the woods at Cow Meadow Park and Preserve, a county park at the end of South Main Street in Freeport. Police have not yet identified the victim in that case.

In the following days, FBI and police were searching the Massapequa Preserve, but did not find any human remains.

According to a witness, FBI agents were first on the scene in Merrick. Officials were using dogs to search through the dense forest, where an abandoned Brooklyn Waterworks reservoir is located.

Two weeks ago, Nassau police found and identified the remains of 16-year-old Angel Soler, of Roosevelt, in a wooded area adjacent to a neighborhood close to the Southern State Parkway, near the Baldwin and Roosevelt border. It is believed that members of MS-13 likely killed Soler, who was last seen at his home on July 21. He attended Freeport High School. He was missing for three months.

Also missing from Freeport High School is 19-year-old Kerin Pineda, of Freeport, who disappeared in May 2016. According to a family friend, Soler and Pineda were friends.

Soler’s mother, Suyapa, partnered with Pineda’s mother, Lilian Oliva-Santos, to look for their sons, with no success, according to the family friend, who spoke with the Herald via Facebook on Oct. 25

According to sources, the disappearance of Soler and Pineda are not related, but both appear to be connected to MS-13.

It could be days before the remains discovered on Friday are identified, but police and federal agents will be investigating aggressively, according to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

“We are using every resource we can,” Singas said at Saturday’s news conference. “We are blanketing the streets, we are collecting intel and we are making sure the people who commit these brutal and horrific murders, that they will be brought to justice; that they will be held accountable.”

Erik Hawkins and Brian Stieglitz contributed to this story.