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A Year Later, Progress in Case of Mom, Tot Slain in Central Islip


Diego Torres and Vanessa Argueta

A teenage gang member was recorded in wiretapped phone conversations callously joking about his involvement in the shooting deaths of a 19-year-old Hempstead woman and her 2-year-old son in Suffolk County last year, according to recently released court documents.


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Even more disturbing, Adalberto “Gringo” Guzman took the slain boy’s Dora the Explorer ball as a souvenir that he later gifted to a friend’s daughter, investigators allege in the documents. Those and other details are outlined in federal conspiracy, racketeering and murder charges filed against Guzman at U.S. District Court in Central Islip, about three miles from where the 18-year-old reputed MS-13 street gang member joined two co-conspirators in allegedly gunning down Vanessa Argueta and Diego Torres one year ago Friday.

“Shut up Torres,” the gunmen allegedly told the screaming child after he witnessed his mother being fatally shot in the chest and head, according to Guzman’s alleged confession outlined in the documents. The suspects then allegedly shot the boy in the head—twice.

The FBI arrested Guzman at Miami International Airport last May when he arrived on a flight from El Salvador, where he and his alleged co-conspirators fled after the gruesome double murder. He pleaded not guilty at federal court in Florida and was later extradited to New York where a federal judge ruled in December that Guzman, who was 17 years old at the time of the murders, can be tried as an adult.

“The defendant’s alleged participation in the heinous, execution-style murder of a nineteen-year-old woman and her two-year-old son…overwhelmingly favors, in the interest of justice…that the defendant can be prosecuted as an adult,” U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco wrote in his ruling.

Most case files were unsealed last month, although some remain shielded from public view.

A second unnamed suspect has reportedly been apprehended and will be tried as an adult although the third suspect is reportedly still at large.

Spokesmen for federal prosecutors and the FBI declined to comment on the case. A Suffolk County police spokesman would only say the case is still under investigation. Guzman’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Investigators said in the documents that Argueta, who allegedly had ties to the Latin Kings and the 18th Street Gang—two MS-13 rival gangs—dated one of Guzman’s alleged co-conspirators, a fellow MS-13 member. When the co-conspirator and Argueta got into a fight, she allegedly told 18th Street gang members where to find him.

In retaliation, the ex-boyfriend asked Argueta out to dinner in a ruse that was a part of an alleged murder plot, authorities say. Guzman, the ex-boyfriend and a third MS-13 member picked up Argueta, but she did not have a babysitter for her son. When the trio failed to convince her to leave the boy at home, all five drove off together.

They eventually arrived at the crime scene in an industrial park near the corner of Connetquot Avenue and Windsor Place where they allegedly lured the young mother into the woods with the promise to smoke marijuana. The next day, a passerby was walking to work when he discovered the bodies behind the Raymour & Flanigan furniture store.

About a month after the shooting, New York City police recovered the gun at the scene of a Far Rockaway murder involving other MS-13 members. The Jennings .22 semi-automatic handgun was also used to kill Nestor Moreno, a Hempstead bouncer, on March 6, 2010, according to the documents.

Four reputed MS-13 members and a juvenile are facing federal charges in that murder following a crackdown on the gang last April.

Just like the shared weapon, this is not Guzman’s first run-in with the law.

After joining MS-13 at the age of 10 while living in California, his family moved to Long Island where he joined the local chapter, or clique, Islip Locotes Salvatruchas, which recently changed its name to Karlington Locos Salvatruchas.

When he was 14, Guzman was convicted of breaking a 7-Eleven clerk’s wrist during a robbery in Central Islip while he was on probation for stealing a car stereo, investigators said. After he served two years in a juvenile correctional center, he was arrested for graffiti and false impersonation.

He has also been in at least two fights while being held without bail at Nassau County jail. Psychologists have said he has “an odd and disturbing preoccupation with blood.”

Guzman faces up to life in prison but is ineligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the murder.

He is due back in court. Feb. 25.

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