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Five charged with murder in gang-related death of Gaithersburg teen

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 2/17/2017 Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal
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.

Two adults and three teenagers from Northern Virginia have been charged with murder in the gang-related death of a 15-year-old Gaithersburg girl.

Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said Thursday at a news conference that the slaying of Damaris A. Reyes Rivas was “savage and brutal . . . horrific,” but police would not discuss how she was killed or any motive. Roessler said authorities had uncovered video evidence of the killing before the teen’s body was found Saturday, but would not describe the footage.

That evidence came out of a Jan. 25 intelligence briefing involving various police departments from across the region, Roessler said, underscoring the complex web of gang ties across the D.C. area.

Damaris left her Montgomery County home voluntarily in December and was reported missing by her mother. Authorities later got word she might be in danger. Police have said they think she was held against her will, assaulted and then killed at a Springfield park on or around Jan. 8.

Police would not identify which gang is suspected to have carried out the slaying, but Maria Reyes, Damaris’s mother, has said that her daughter had become involved with a local clique of MS-13.

The teen’s killing has renewed concern about the violent street gang, which has its roots in El Salvador and has made a resurgence in the Washington suburbs in recent years. Its members have been linked to murders and other crimes.

“The crimes of these transnational gangs are on the rise,” Kevin Donovan of the FBI’s Washington Field Office said at the news conference.

Police said the investigation into Damaris’s killing has overlapped with other cases, including the unsolved killing of a young man who was found dead last month in Prince William County.

In all, 10 suspects have been taken into custody in connection with Damaris’s death.

Jose Castillo Rivas, 18, of Springfield, and Wilmer A. Sanchez-Serrano, 21, of no fixed address, were charged with murder. Three teens also were charged with murder: a 17-year-old girl from the Alexandria area and two 17-year-old boys, one from Annandale and one from Springfield.

Five other suspects face gang participation charges including two adults, Cindy Blanco Hernandez, of Reston, and Aldair J. Miranda Carcamo, of Springfield, both 18. Three others are juveniles.

Police have not said whether the juveniles attended school in the area or detailed the role they believe any of the suspects played in the case.

According to court records, Blanco Hernandez and Miranda Carcamo were initially arrested in the disappearance of Lizzy Rivera Colindres, a 16-year-old from Springfield reported missing Jan. 15. She returned last weekend. Police said they are exploring connections between Damaris’s slaying and the disappearance and return of both Colindres and Venus Lorena Romero Iraheta, 17, of Alexandria.

Police said Iraheta, 17, was possibly in danger before she returned home safely Tuesday night. She was later interviewed by detectives and was an acquaintance of Damaris’s, police said.

Iraheta knew 21-year-old Christian Alexander Sosa Rivas, of Fairfax City, who was found dead in Prince William County on Jan. 12, police said. Reyes said she thinks her daughter also knew Sosa Rivas and had dated him.

Speaking about gangs in general during the Thursday news conference, Jay Lanham of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force said gang recruitment of youths is a growing problem.

“We are seeing a lot of increase in recruiting of high school, middle school students,” he said.

Douglas W. Keen, chairman of the task force, said in an email that there has been an upswing in violence within MS-13.

“We have gathered some intelligence that says MS-13 leaders from El Salvador want to make leadership changes,” Keen said. “We have seen an increase in violent crime, and even more concerning, an increase in violent acts by juvenile offenders.”

Keen said MS-13 has increased recruitment of unaccompanied minors, who have made their way to the United States in record numbers in recent years.

“When we debrief some of the arrestees they are telling us they were recruited at a young age and encouraged to commit crimes of assaults and larcenies,” Keen said. “Then they move to narcotics and more violent crimes.”

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