The reputed MS-13 gang member who allegedly played a role in the slaying of a young mother and her toddler in Central Islip four years ago is now one of the nation’s most wanted.
Juan Elias Garcia, 21, who was born in Santa Rosa de Lima, El Salvador, has been named one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives for his alleged involvement in the brutal executions of 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta, who he was romantically involved with, and her 2-year-old son Diego Torres.
Garcia and two other MS-13 members, Adalberto Ariel Guzman and Rene Mendez Mejia, were identified as the alleged gunman in early 2010. Mejia pleaded guilty to the murders in June 2011 and a federal jury convicted Guzman in September. Garcia, who goes by the nickname “Cruzito,” has successfully evaded authorities ever since—so the FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
“Garcia’s callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son,” said George Venizelos, FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office. “His appointment to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list illustrates not only the seriousness of his crimes but our commitment to seeking justice for his victims.”
Garcia, according to authorities, felt like he was betrayed by Argueta, who also had ties to two rival gangs, the 18th Street Gang and the Latin Kings. A dispute between Argueta and Garcia led to a rival gang threatening Garcia, who relayed his concerns to his MS-13 leaders. He eventually received authorization from an MS-13 leader to retaliate against the woman for her perceived betrayal, authorities said.
Investigators described a calculated plot that began with Garcia inviting Arguetta and her son out to dinner on Feb. 4, 2010. But Garcia, Guzman and Mejia instead drove the vehicle to a wooded area in Central Islip and lured mother and son into the woods. Once there, authorities said, the gang members fired two shots with a .22 caliber handgun, fatally striking Argueta in the head and chest.
When Torres began crying at the sight of his dead mother, the gang members shot him in the head. Miraculously, the boy survived the first shot and got back up and clutched onto Garcia’s leg, but Guzman fired a second—and fatal—shot to the boy’s head, authorities said.
Their lifeless bodies were discovered 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.
Authorities warned that individuals with information concerning Garcia should not take action themselves but should immediately contact the nearest FBI office or local police. Sightings outside the United States should be directed to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Garcia, who is described as 5-foot, 4-inches tall and 125 pounds, is the 501st person to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.