This story was reported by Michael O’Keeffe, Mark Morales and Robert E. Kessler. It was written by Kessler.
The FBI Tuesday identified the remains of two men who, sources say, were the victims of the MS-13 street gang — the latest young people who had gone missing and were discovered in public spaces thought to be where the notorious group meets.
The remains of Kerin Pineda, 20, were found in thick woods near the Merrick-Freeport border and the remains of Javier Castillo, 16, of Central Islip, were found in Cow Meadow Park and Preserve in Freeport, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force said.
While the two were believed to have been killed by MS-13, the killings may have not been related except for their separate deaths at the hands of gang members, sources said.
Pineda’s mother, Lilian Oliva of Freeport, said Tuesday Nassau police told her Friday that the remains of her son — who has been missing for more than a year — had been located and that a DNA match confirmed Pineda’s identity.
“He had so many dreams,” Oliva said. “He always talked about becoming a police officer one day. He would say, ‘One day, I’m going to work and I’m going to take care of you.’ And that’s why it hurts me so much. Because he had so many dreams.”
Oliva said police told her investigators found a gold chain that belonged to Pineda as well as his school ID card.
The remains of Pineda and Castillo were among three discoveries made by investigators in a span of only nine days in areas a few miles apart in Nassau.
The body of Angel Soler, 16, of Roosevelt, was found Oct. 19 in woods in the Roosevelt-Baldwin area. Federal and local investigators believe Soler was killed by MS-13 members, according to sources.
The remains of Pineda, who was reported missing in May 2016, were recovered by investigators on Oct. 27 and the remains of Castillo, reported missing in October 2016, were found Oct. 24.
In March, the body of Valley Stream’s Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, 19, was found in the Massapequa Preserve and investigators believe he too was an MS-13 victim.
Castillo’s cousin Nora Gupta, said the young man came to the United States two years ago from El Salvador to pursue his education and escape the violence that has plagued the Central American country.
“He liked skateboards and video games,” Gupta said of the Central Islip High School student.
Gupta said Castillo’s family does not know why the teen would be targeted by MS-13. “No explanation, and we really want to know,” she said.
The FBI’s gang task force, Nassau police, State Police and other law enforcement officials have been searching for the remains of gang victims in Nassau County parks and nature preserves in recent weeks.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the search was sparked by a tip provided by an informant.
Authorities said they are also searching for evidence — such as beer bottles and food wrappers — that indicated gangs, including MS-13, are meeting in Long Island parks, preserves and other public spaces.
According to police, Gonzales-Espantzay was stabbed and shot in January, and authorities have said two men whom they described as MS-13 members were responsible for his death.
When the remains of Soler’s body were found and identified, Pineda’s mother said that both he and her son had been missing and were friendly when they attended Freeport High School.
Authorities on Long Island have been more intensively cracking down on M-13, which officials have said, targets for killing those who members believe have disrespected the gang or are members of rival gangs,
Pineda’s mother said investigators told her they will hold her son’ s body for a month to determine how he had died and how long his remains had been in the park.
“I wasn’t expecting that they would find him the way they did,” she said.