MS-13 Gang Leader Sentenced to Life for Terrorizing D.C. Area and Random Killings in Virginia

MS-13 Gang Leader Sentenced to Life for Terrorizing D.C. Area and Random Killings in Virginia

Two gang members, Melvin Canales Saldana, who ordered the killings and another person who carried out one of them, were both given life sentences on Tuesday. Someone else in the group was given 14 years in prison after being found guilty of planning to kill someone but not actually killing anyone.

Prosecutors say Canales, who is also known as “Demente,” was the second-highest-ranking member of MS-13’s Sitios gang, which was active in northern Virginia. Prosecutors say that in the spring of 2019, Canales told mid-level members to kill rival gang members with more violence. Until that point, members of the group had mostly been happy transporting cocaine between New York and Virginia.

In response, members of MS-13 went on the hunt for members of rival gangs in Virginia and Maryland. Prosecutors say they looked everywhere but found nothing. When that happened, they went after random civilians to raise their standing in the gang instead.

Gang members went after Eric Tate in August 2019 as he went to an apartment building to meet a woman. He died in the street. Antonio Smith was killed after being shot six times on his way home from the store the following month. Documents from the court show that Smith asked his killers why they were killing him.

A different trial found three other MS-13 members guilty of killing Milton Bertram Lopez and Jairo Geremeas Mayorga. One of them was the gang’s U.S. boss, Marvin Menjivar Guti√©rrez. We found their bodies in the woods of Prince William County, Virginia, in June 2019. The people who were on trial have not yet been given their sentences.

Canales’ lawyer, Lana Manitta, said she will fight the conviction of her client. She said that her client didn’t want innocent people to be targeted, and that his employees tried to make the shooting victims look like real gang rivals to him so that they could get promoted in the gang.

One of the 12 MS-13 members and associates charged with racketeering, drug trafficking, and a string of killings in 2022 was Canales.

Police say Canales joined the gang when he was 14 or 15 years old and lived in El Salvador. They also say he came to the U.S. illegally in 2016 to avoid arrest warrants in El Salvador.

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