Juan Elias Garcia, 21, has been added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Juan Elias Garcia, 21, has been added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

The reputed MS-13 gang member wanted for his alleged role in murdering a Long Island woman and her toddler four years ago nearly set a record for the shortest time spent on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted.

Juan “Cruzito” Garcia, 21, an El Salvadorian immigrant who is the last of four suspects wanted in connection with the notorious Central Islip double murder, surrendered Thursday to authorities in Nicaragua, the FBI said. His capture came a day after the FBI offered a $100,000 reward Wednesday for tips leading to his arrest and added his name to the nation’s worst fugitives.

“Garcia’s callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son,” George Venizelos, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office, said earlier this week.

The record for shortest amount of time on the list goes to Billie Austin Bryant, who was apprehended two hours after making the list in 1969 for murdering two FBI agents. Victor Manuel Gerena, wanted for a $7 million Connecticut robbery, holds the record for longest time on the list: 30 years. He’s still at large.

Garcia had dated the victim, 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta, but when the relationship ended, authorities said Argueta had asked friends in rival gangs to jump Garcia.

Garcia then allegedly got approval from a Brentwood MS-13 clique leader to kill Argueta, who brought her toddler son, Diego Torres, along for what she thought was dinner at a restaurant, authorities said.

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Garcia and two others lured her into the woods in a Central Islip industrial park, where they fatally shot both the mother and her child in February 2010. Their bodies were found the next day.

Heriberto Martinez, the MS-13 leader who prosecutors said authorized the execution, was sentenced to life in prison in December for racketeering as well as charges related to the murder.

Two others other MS-13 members face up to life in prison as well in the case. A federal jury convicted Adalberto Ariel Guzman in September and Rene Mendez Mejia pleaded guilty to the murders in June 2011.

Garcia was reportedly the first MS-13 member to make the Ten Most Wanted list. Authorities say the gang is the largest and most violent on LI.


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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.