More than 50 witnesses were prepared to testify against MS-13 gang member Alirio Reyes. But after two days of testimony in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Reyes pleaded guilty to murdering former Herndon High School student Jose Sandoval.
Reyes, 26, and Osmin Heriberto Alfaro-Fuentes, 25, murdered Sandoval as the 17-year-old and his female acquaintance were walking on Park Avenue the night of May 16, 2004. The female with him — who The Connection is not identifying because prosecutors said she and other witnesses could be in danger — had planned to see a movie at Worldgate Cinema in Herndon with another friend that evening, according to Morris Parker, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
"What they next experienced was more tragic and horrifying than anything … seen on a movie screen," said Parker, during opening arguments Tuesday, Sept. 20 before Judge T.S. Ellis, III.
While Alfaro-Fuentes circled Sandoval and the female teenager on a bike, Reyes approached them, on foot, from the right, Parker said. Alfaro-Fuentes lied to Sandoval, identifying himself as a member of the 18th Street gang. He goaded Sandoval, asking him if he was a member.
"What Jose did not know was the two defendants were not friends of the 18th Street gang, they were members of a rival gang," Parker said.
When Sandoval answered he was a member, Reyes shot Sandoval and the girl at close range with a .38-caliber handgun. Sandoval fell to the sidewalk next to the girl, Parker said, and she was shot in the back. After being flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, she required surgery for a collapsed lung and was hospitalized for nine days.
Sandoval was pronounced dead at Reston Hospital.
The female was one of 55 witnesses prepared to testify.
"She will tell you about the last night she saw [Sandoval] and his fatal answer when he was asked if he was a member of the 18th Street gang," said Parker.
<b>REYES FLED HERNDON</b>with Alfaro-Fuentes to Los Angeles, where they were helped by other MS-13 gang members, according to court documents.
Members of the United States Fugitive Task Force arrested Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes in the Oasis Motel in Los Angeles on June 18, 2004.
The trial against Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes was scheduled to last eight-to-nine days in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Parker planned to devote the first half of the trial to how MS-13 operates in Northern Virginia and the second half on the murder and how Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes fled to Los Angeles to hide from police.
Reyes pleaded guilty to murder in the aid of racketeering and to his role in the May 16 shootings after two days of testimony about the nature and structure of MS-13 and previous crimes committed by the gang, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty.
<b>ALFARO-FUENTES PLEADED</b> guilty to murder in the aid of racketeering on Sept. 1. Alfaro-Fuentes admitted to Herndon Police detectives in July 2004 that he was with Reyes at the May 2004 shooting.
"Alfaro-Fuentes denied being the shooter and stated that the only other people present besides himself and Reyes, were the two victims," according to court documents.
"Alfaro knew that Reyes was armed with a .38-caliber weapon. Alfaro also knew that if the juveniles were rival gang members, Reyes would shoot them," according to the statement of facts Alfaro-Fuentes agreed to at his plea hearing.
Both Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, who was prepared to testify in the trial against Reyes, will face mandatory life sentences at separate hearings before Ellis in December.
Reyes and Alfaro-Fuentes, natives of El Salvador, "entered the U.S. illegally at an unknown point in the past and obtained temporary protected status through Immigration and Naturalization Service in approximately 2002," according to court documents.