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Long IslandCrime

Victim’s mother weeps as MS-13 defendants appear in court

The four accused gang members charged in the killings of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas appeared in federal court for a status conference.

Nisa Mickens was found dead on the eve

Nisa Mickens was found dead on the eve of her 16th birthday. Photo Credit: Family handout

The mother of one of the two teenage girls killed in Brentwood last year, allegedly by MS-13 gang members, collapsed into tears inside a courtroom Monday after watching the accused perpetrators smiling and waving to their loved ones.

Elizabeth Alvarado — the mother of Nisa Mickens, 15, who was killed along with her friend Kayla Cuevas, 16, in September 2016 — said she was overcome with emotion as the four adult members of MS-13 charged in the killings of Mickens and Cuevas appeared in federal court in Central Islip for a status conference in their case.

“They have no right to see their family,” Alvarado said in an interview outside the courtroom. “I can’t talk to my daughter. They took all that away from me.”

Federal prosecutors have charged four men in the killings: Alexi Saenz, 22, of Central Islip, the head of a gang clique; his brother Jairo Saenz, 19, also of Central Islip, the second-in-command of the clique; Enrique Portillo, 19, of Brentwood; and Selvin Chavez, 19, also of Brentwood, officials said.

The four have pleaded not guilty and remain held without bail. The Department of Justice has not yet said whether they plan to seek the death penalty for any of the four. Their attorneys did not comment Monday.

The four were among several accused MS-13 gang members charged in killings on Long Island, including the murders of four young men killed in a Central Islip park in April, who appeared in court Monday for status hearings.

The four defendants in the Cuevas and Mickens killings — all of whom listened to the brief court proceedings through a Spanish-language interpreter — spoke and laughed among themselves, and smiled and waved to their supporters as they sat in the jury box in Judge Joseph F. Bianco’s courtroom before the hearing began.

Another status hearing was set for Feb. 27.

Several young women — two holding babies — cried at the sight of the defendants, but smiled and waved to them and were able to have short verbal exchanges across the courtroom.

As the four men were being led out of the courtroom after the hearing concluded, one woman called out in Spanish, “Te amo mucho,” which translates to, “I love you so much.” Another shouted “mi amor,” which means “my love.”

The supporters declined to comment to a reporter.

Robert Mickens, Nisa’s father, said he feels conflicted about whether the defendants should face the death penalty, but wants them to spend their lives in an American prison.

Mickens said he watched one of the defendants wave to a toddler, presumably his child or relative, and thought: “They could have not done what they did.”

The mother and father of Kayla Cuevas, who also attended the hearing, declined to comment.

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