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Final minutes of 15-year-old killed in gang slaying described

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/03/2017 Justin Jouvenal
Maria Reyes holds a dress her daughter Damaris A. Reyes Rivas was going to wear for her quinceañera. © Dan Morse/The Washington Post Maria Reyes holds a dress her daughter Damaris A. Reyes Rivas was going to wear for her quinceañera.

The 15-year-old had been lured to the Springfield park on the pretext of smoking pot, but when she was removed from a car by alleged MS-13 members and walked into the woods, she grew alarmed, people familiar with the prosecution’s case said.

“I have been set up,” Damaris A. Reyes Rivas blurted out that January day.

The Gaithersburg teen would soon be killed in a manner police called “savage and brutal. . . horrific.” It is one of a series of overlapping cases involving teens and young people associated with a resurgent MS-13 that have troubled authorities from Virginia to Maryland and resulted in 16 arrests.

The cases also include the slaying of 21-year-old Christian Alexander Sosa Rivas, whose body was found along the Potomac River in Dumfries in January, and the disappearance and return of two Fairfax County girls, 16-year-old Lizzy Rivera Colindres of Springfield and 17-year-old Venus Lorena Romero Iraheta of Alexandria.

On Friday, Fairfax police also discovered two sets of remains in a park in the Lincolnia section of the county. They said that case too is gang-related.

Damaris A. Reyes Rivas, 15, whose body was discovered by police in Springfield on Feb. 11. © Family photo Damaris A. Reyes Rivas, 15, whose body was discovered by police in Springfield on Feb. 11.

Many questions remain about the cases, but interviews with people familiar with Damaris’s killing reveal details about her final minutes and possible links to other crimes. The people connected with the cases spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not been made public yet.

Ten people, including six juveniles, have been charged in connection with Damaris’s killing. Her body was discovered near an industrial area not far from Lake Accotink Park on Feb. 11.

Damaris had voluntarily left home about a month before arriving at the park on or about Jan. 8, police said. Maria Reyes, Damaris’s mother, said she had previously fallen in with a clique of MS-13 and maintained sporadic contact after leaving home.

Roughly two days before her death, Damaris received Facebook messages that appeared to show she was in danger. “Those suckers want to kill you,” said one shared by Reyes. Another said, “They have already given permission to take you out.”

People familiar with Damaris’s case say authorities believe the teen’s killing was approved by MS-13 leaders. They said two juveniles who are charged in connection with Damaris’s death and believed to be gang members took her from the car at Lake Accotink and walked her into the woods.

The Washington Post does not generally name juveniles charged with crimes.

Damaris was taken to an MS-13 hangout near a set of train tracks, people familiar with the case said. At that point, a juvenile charged with murder in Damaris’s case walked her down an embankment and interrogated her.

The teen asked Damaris whether she had a relationship with Rivas, people familiar with the case said the prosecution’s case shows. Reyes has said her daughter dated Rivas. The juvenile who confronted Damaris also knew Rivas, authorities have said.

Damaris asked for forgiveness, but the other teen slashed her with a bowie knife, people familiar with the case said. Fairfax County police later determined that Damaris died of multiple forms of trauma to the upper body. Video evidence is among the clues in the slaying.

Last week, Prince William County police announced the arrest of six people in connection with Rivas’s slaying. Fairfax County police said information gleaned from the probe of Rivas’s killing led them to discover Damaris’s slaying.

Citing a search warrant that has since been sealed, NBC 4 reported that Rivas may have been targeted by fellow MS-13 members because he was claiming to be the leader of a local clique. The outlet reported that the gang members used social media accounts of female associates to lure Rivas out of his normal routine. The search warrant said Damaris was one of the last people to see him alive.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh declined to discuss the specifics of Damaris’s case because it is pending but said, “We are all working hard to bring to justice those responsible for this killing.”

Every attorney for those charged in Damaris’s killing, except one, declined to comment. Vernida R. Chaney is representing one of the juveniles.

“I think the evidence will show that not all of them are involved in the crime,” Chaney said.

Dana Hedgpeth and Michael E. Miller contributed to this report.

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