Suffolk County police identified the four recent Central Islip murder victims who investigators believe were killed by the street gang MS-13 and urged tipsters to come forward with information to help investigators.
The victims were identified as 16-year-old Justin Llivicura of East Patchogue, 20-year-old Michael Lopez Banegas and Jorge Tigre of Bellport, Jefferson Villalobos of Pompano Beach, Fla., both 18, police said. Authorities released few other details about the case, but did confirm that a video of the victims was sent to one of their girlfriends.
“We know that the community is on edge,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told reporters during a Friday evening news conference outside the Third Precinct station house in Bay Shore. “We will be enhancing patrols significantly and for an indefinite period of time.”
Police have said they found the four victims Wednesday evening in a wooded area south of the soccer fields across from the Central Islip Recreation Center on Clayton Street, but did not say why they searched the area. Sini said the victims appear to have been slain at the same time using a sharp object and “extreme violence” that investigators consider the hallmark of MS-13. The bodies are believed to have been there for several days.
The murders come six months after five gang murder victims were found dead in a five-week span in neighboring Brentwood and about a month after 13 MS-13 gang members were arrested for some of those cases and several others. Members of the gang, which has roots in El Salvador and members in several countries, have been convicted of numerous murders in the largely immigrant neighborhoods in recent years.
Sini said that the gang preys on recent immigrants that are especially vulnerable. While urging tipsters to come forward, he insisted that police will not inquire about the immigration status of victims or witnesses. Crime Stoppers is offering a $25,000 “fast cash” reward—paid within 72 hours—for information leading to an arrest in the case, which police are investigating jointly with the FBI.
Anyone with information on these murders is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.