Police are still searching for a fourth suspect involved in the murder of a 14-year-old girl found beaten and stabbed to death in a creek last week.
Police said cadaver dogs helped find the body of Ariana Funes-Diaz, 14, who had been reported missing from a “therapeutic” group home for girls in Anne Arundel County.
According to Prince George’s County Police, she was beaten and stabbed by two men, while a woman watched. An unknown suspect took video, according to court documents.
Joel Escobar, 17, of Northeast D.C., Josue Fuentes-Ponce, 16, of Bladensburg, Md., and Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi, 14, of Lothian, Md., were all arrested May 16 and are facing first-degree murder charges as adults.
Police arrested 16-year-old Josue Fuentes-Ponce of Bladensburg, 17-year-old Joel Escobar of Northeast Washington, DC, and 14-year-old Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi of Lothian, Md. in the murder of Ariana Funes-Diaz,14.
Fuentes-Ponce and Escobar are believed to be members of an MS-13 clique in the county, according to Prince George’s County Police.
“Consistently what we’ve seen when we deal with cases involving MS-13 is violence that’s disturbing,” Maj. Brian Riley said last week. “And they’re not afraid to use it on their own, to send a message in some cases.”
Riley said police believe the victim had helped the others with a gang-related kidnapping and robbery with the other teens on April 17 in the District of Columbia.
Police believe the April kidnapping and robbery began in the area of the Benning Road Metro station in Northeast Washington D.C.The group is suspected of grabbing the victim, bringing them to an abandoned home and robbing them.
Riley said investigation showed the other suspects believed Funes-Diaz planned to go to authorities about the D.C. crime, then plotted to kill her.
Probable cause documents show Hernandez-Nucamendi was originally believed to be a witness, but she was charged after police said she admitted to helping plan the attack.
She told police she stood at the entrance of the tunnel, and watched as the two other named suspects stabbed and beat Funes-Diaz. She said the unknown suspect filmed the murder with a cell phone, according to court documents.
She told police she watched Fuentes-Ponce wash the bloodied machete in the creek before they walked out of the woods and back to the vehicle, according to court documents. Hernandez-Nucamendi also led investigators to the location of the machete believed to have been used during the attack.
So far this year, MS-13 members have been tied to at least four other homicides in the Washington metro area:
• Earlier this month, D.C. police said the death of Eberson Guerra Sanchez, 16, of Frederick, Md., whose mutilated body was believed to have been found beneath the Chain Bridge, was likely the work of MS-13. Family had reported Guerra Sanchez missing April 26, and a final confirmation of the teen’s identity is pending from the District’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
• In March, six MS-13 gang members were arrested in connection with the death of Jacson Pineda Chicas, 16, of Falls Church, Va., after a sheriff’s deputy found the teen’s body in a wooded area near Fredericksburg, Va. Pineda Chicas, also a member of MS-13, was stabbed more than 100 times inside the home of a suspected gang leader in Landover Hills, Md., police said.
• In February, 11 MS-13 members were indicted in connection with the kidnapping and killing of Sergio Triminio, 14, and Edvin Mendez, 17, whose bodies were found in 2016 buried in Holmes Run Park in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Va.
“Consistently what we’ve seen when we deal with cases involving MS-13 is violence that’s disturbing,” Maj. Brian Riley said Thursday. “And they’re not afraid to use it on their own, to send a message in some cases.”
When asked about a rise in gang-related crimes in his area, the Prince George’s County police major demurred.
“We have not noticed a recent uptick,” Riley said. “It [seems like] an uptick because of some recent cases, but consistently, it’s been the same type of activity we’ve had in the past.”
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to call Prince George’s County detectives at 301-772-4925.
Contributing: Linda Dono and Scott Broom, WUSA-TV