TOWSON, Md. – Six of the seven people charged in the stabbing death of a man in Maryland in July have been identified by federal officials as being part of the MS-13 gang and in the country illegally, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Baltimore County Police Department announced Tuesday that seven suspects, including a 16-year-old charged as an adult, were charged with murdering 21-year-old Daniel Alejandro Alvarado Cuellar.
Cuellar’s body was discovered July 31 in the grass outside an apartment building in the Towson area and had “multiple sharp-force injuries,” officials said in a news release.
Police said that Cuellar was the intended victim of a planned gang-related homicide, but said a motive for the murder remained under investigation.
“We know this group of individuals was conducting surveillance on him, they were watching him, following him. We know they watched as he left the laundromat and went back across the street to the apartment complex and that is where some of those individuals accosted him,” Baltimore County Police Officer Jennifer Peach told FOX45. “We know they used knives and multiple people stabbed him multiple times.”
As a result, all seven suspects were charged with first-degree murder, according to police.
They have been identified as Jonathan Escobar-Hernandez, 20, of Towson, Md.; Marlon Leonardo Fabian-Flores, 20, of Manchester, Md.; Edwin Edgardo Garcia-Martir, 18, of Middle River, Md.; Hugo Portillo-Chavez, 31, of Cockeysville, Md.; Jose Fausto Rivera-Coreas, 19, of Cockeysville, Md.; Odaliz Rosas-Yanez, 20, of Cockeysville, Md.; and Leonel Alexander Velasquez-Hernandez, 16, of Cockeysville, Md.
An ICE spokeswoman told Fox News on Sunday that the agency has issued six immigration detainers. They said detainers were lodged once the individuals entered local law enforcement custody on murder charges.
Of the seven suspects, six are in the U.S. illegally, the ICE spokeswoman confirmed. Of the six illegal immigrant suspects, five are Salvadoran and one is Mexican, ICE said.
All of the six illegal immigrants were identified as MS-13 gang members in an ICE database, the ICE spokeswoman said.
Investigators believe that Cuellar’s killing was due to a war between two rival Latino street gangs, the 18th Street and MS-13, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The 21-year-old had been seen making a hand gesture that was believed to be “indicative of an affiliation with the 18th Street,” detectives wrote in charging documents obtained by the Sun.
The seven suspects arrested in connection with Cuellar’s slaying remain held without bail in the Baltimore County Detention Center, according to police. All seven could face a life sentence in prison if they are convicted, officials said. Moreover, it’s possible that others may also face charges in connection to the murder.
In 2019, officials said that MS-13 has been ramping up recruitment in the D.C. area after taking a break in 2018.
“We’ve seen a rise in gang activity here this spring. There have been a few homicides in the region, as you’ve seen,” Jay Lanham, director of the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force, told FOX5 in June. “Last year, we saw the gangs, especially MS-13, laying low. We arrested a lot of the program and clique leaders so their leadership was lacking.”
Lanham said at the time that the 18th Street Gang is MS-13’s top rival.
MS-13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha, recruits young teenagers from El Salvador and Honduras, though many gang members were born in the U.S.