Medical examiner testifies in MS-13 trial

Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left,

Leaders of the MS-13 gang Heriberto Martinez, left, and Carlos Ortega, right, are scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Central Islip. (Credit: Handout)

A Suffolk County medical examiner testified Tuesday that in 2010 she determined that a 2-year-old Hempstead boy had been murdered with two shots to the head and his mother killed with a single shot to the head and one to the chest.

Deputy Suffolk medical examiner Odette Hall testified in U.S. District Court in Central Islip at the trial of two leaders of the MS-13 street gang, under questioning by Eastern District federal prosecutor Carrie Capwell.

Hall said she performed autopsies on the bodies of the 2-year-old, Diego Torres, and his mother, Vanessa Argueta, shortly after police found their bodies in a wooded area in Central Islip.


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The two MS-13 leaders, Heriberto Martinez, 25, of Far Rockaway, and Carlos Ortega, 23, of Brentwood, are being tried in connection with a total of five killings.

Ortega is not charged in the Argueta-Torres killings. Martinez is charged with authorizing the killing of Argueta, because she attempted to have her former boyfriend, an MS-13 member, harmed by members of the rival 18th Street gang. Martinez is charged with conspiracy after the fact in the Argueta-Torres killings for helping the three people allegedly involved in the actual shootings of the toddler and his mother flee the country.

Because of potential prejudice to the defendants, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco ruled before the trial that the anonymous jurors were not to be told Torres' age or his relationship to Argueta.

Also on Tuesday, defense attorneys hammered away in cross-examination at the credibility of a key government witness, MS-13 member Santos Joel Calderon, who is hoping to avoid an automatic life sentence by cooperating with prosecutors in testifying about the killings of other victims: Hempstead bar security guard Nestor Moreno, 22, and fellow MS-13 member Mario Quijada, 25, of Far Rockaway.

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