An FBI agent testified Tuesday that a member of the MS-13 street gang confessed to him that he had killed a 19-year-old Hempstead mother, but did not murder the woman's 2-year-old son.
Sean McMullen, an agent with the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force, said that shortly after he began to question Adalberto Guzman, then 17, the Central Islip resident admitted to killing the mother, Vanessa Argueta, 19.
But Guzman said that another MS-13 member fired the two shots that killed Argueta's toddler son, Diego Torres, McMullen testified at the U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
Guzman is on trial for racketeering conspiracy to murder both Argueta and Diego, as well as murdering each of them.
Federal prosecutors John Durham and Raymond Tierney have said that a number of government witnesses will testify later in the trial that Guzman boasted of killing the 2-year-old and even talked of keeping a toy ball that Diego played with, eventually giving it to the daughter of a girlfriend.
McMullen said that he flew to Miami International Airport in May 2010 to question Guzman about the February murders that year in Central Islip, after he was arrested trying to re-enter the United States on a flight from El Salvador.
Guzman was "extremely calm, poised" in recounting the killings, after initially denying that he was involved, McMullen said under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham.
McMullen said that Guzman spoke in fluent English. Guzman was born and raised in the United States, first in California and then on Long Island, officials have said.
According to Guzman's confession, McMullen said, MS-13 members decided to "drop," or murder in their slang, Argueta, because she had "disrespected" the gang by trying to have rival gang members beat up her former MS-13 boyfriend.
Guzman said that he, the former boyfriend, Juan Garcia, and a third member, Rene Mejia, then went on a "mission" -- MS-13 slang for an action to commit murder. McMullen testified Argueta took Diego along.
Guzman claimed that they told Argueta that they were going into a wooded area in Central Islip to smoke marijuana, McMullen said. But when they entered the woods, Mejia and he shot Argueta.
Diego began "screaming and crying" and the ex-boyfriend then fired two shots into the 2-year-old's head, according to Guzman's account, McMullen said.
Mejia has pleaded guilty in the case, and Garcia is being sought.
On cross-examination, one of Guzman's attorneys, Gary Villanueva, noted that McMullen had gotten Guzman to sign an acknowledgment that he had been informed of his Miranda rights, but not of the notes taken of his supposed role in the killings.
McMullen said it was FBI policy not to do so.
In his opening, Villanueva said that his client is being framed by government cooperators.