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Long IslandCrime

FBI finds human remains in Babylon Village

The FBI found human remains in Babylon Village that a law-enforcement official identified later Thursday, April 5, 2018, as a victim of MS-13 violence. The remains are believed to be those of Ceasar Rivera, 29, who disappeared in October 2015, a law-enforcement source with knowledge of the case said.  Credit: James Carbone

The FBI has found human remains in Babylon Village that a law enforcement official identified Thursday as a victim of MS-13 violence.

The remains are believed to be those of Ceasar Rivera, 29, who disappeared in October 2015, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the case said.

Suffolk police initially investigated his disappearance as a missing-persons case but soon transferred it to the homicide bureau, the source said. The FBI later took the lead in the case, with assistance from Suffolk police.

“Old body, old murder,” another law enforcement source said. “There is no threat to the community at all. This is a case law enforcement has been aware of for a long time. This is more of a recovery than a search.”

The sources said they did not know why Rivera was targeted by MS-13, which authorities say is responsible for more than a dozen murders on Long Island in recent years. Law enforcement officials believe Rivera’s killers are already in custody for unrelated crimes, the sources said.

“It’s clear from the condition of the remains that they’ve been at the site for an extended period of time, and will require forensic testing to determine the identity,” FBI public affairs specialist Amy Thoreson said. “We don’t have any information to suggest this is associated with an imminent threat to the safety of the community in Babylon.”

Thoreson declined to comment earlier Thursday when asked if investigators believe the body is a victim of MS-13 violence.

A crew of more than a dozen FBI officials were on the scene excavating marshy land adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road tracks off North Railroad Avenue. The site, which borders many private homes, is between Livingston and Ralph avenues.

Chris Gries, 53, who lives near the scene of the investigation, said he saw a Suffolk police car and other unmarked vehicles at the site around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Jessica Patanjo, 23, who lives nearby on North Railroad Avenue, called it a safe neighborhood.

“I wouldn’t expect it here,” Patanjo said. “It’s safe. There are a lot of kids and families.”

Investigators wrapped up the search around 1 p.m. Thursday.

The hunt for remains came nearly one year after the bodies of four young men federal prosecutors say were murdered by MS-13 on April 11 were found in the woods behind a Central Islip soccer field.

In October, Nassau police, acting on a tip from federal Homeland Security Investigations, found the body of 16-year-old Angel Soler on the Baldwin-Roosevelt border. Soler was reported missing in July, and sources told Newsday they believed he had been killed by MS-13 members.

A week later, the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force recovered human remains in Cow Meadow Park in Freeport on Oct. 25 after investigators received a tip.

An admitted member of the gang pleaded guilty earlier this month to participating in the June 2016 slaying of another MS-13 member whose skeletal remains were found several months later on the grounds of Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood. Elmer Alexander Lopez, 20, will be sentenced in September.

The remains of the victim, Jose Pena, 18, were found as federal authorities and Suffolk police investigated the September 2016 slayings of Brentwood High School students Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16.

With David Schwartz

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