Three teenagers have denied taking part in the alleged MS-13 gang slaying of a 17-year-old whose body police found behind a Nassau community center after a December shooting and machete attack that investigators linked to an earlier Queens killing.
A 16-year-old Far Rockaway boy pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder in the Dec. 18 slaying of Harold Sermeno behind Five Towns Community Center, on the border of Lawrence and Inwood.
“Innocent,” the bespectacled teen blurted out at a Youth Court arraignment in Hempstead, in response to the accusation.
His mother wept in the courtroom's front row as a Spanish language interpreter translated the proceedings.
Judge Conrad Singer remanded the 16-year-old to a juvenile facility to await trial.
The teen’s Nassau Legal Aid Society lawyer declined to comment after the arraignment.
A Nassau County indictment shows three juveniles and three adults face murder charges in the Sermeno case, Newsday reported last week.
Four of those six people also face murder charges in the Dec. 15 slaying of Ian Michael Cruz, 23, in Bayswater Point State Park in Queens, according to court records and sources.
Last year, the NYPD arrested five of the same six indicted people in connection with the Queens killing, including one only on weapons charges, sources said.
Murder charges in both the Nassau and Queens slayings are being prosecuted in Nassau County, according to an April 4 indictment.
The Nassau district attorney’s office declined to comment last week and again Tuesday.
A court official previously said authorities can prosecute defendants in nearby jurisdictions if the alleged crimes happen within a certain distance of the border.
On Monday, a second 16-year-old boy, from Far Rockaway, named in the indictment and a 13-year-old girl pleaded not guilty in Hempstead Youth Court to murder in the killing of Sermeno, who a source previously told Newsday was believed to be a Latin Kings gang member.
Those two teens, baby-faced and in handcuffs, also pleaded not guilty to murder in Cruz’s slaying before Singer remanded them to juvenile facilities.
The petite 13-year-old, also from Far Rockaway, wore a black hoodie sweatshirt, her dark hair hanging below her shoulders as she stood with her appointed lawyer, Russell Rothberg, and an interpreter.
“I’m shocked,” Rothberg said later of the allegations against his client. “We’re going to fight the charges.”
An appointed lawyer for the 16-year-old arraigned Monday in Hempstead told the judge he believed his client didn’t have previous arrests and that prosecutors were alleging the teen served as a lookout.
“He’s not alleged to have shot or stabbed anybody … And the case hasn’t been litigated. This is still allegations,” attorney Scott Bookstein said later in an interview.
Law enforcement sources previously said authorities think the 13-year-old lured Cruz to the park with an online promise of sex before he was shot in the head.
Cruz may have belonged to the 18th Street gang – an MS-13 rival – a New York City law enforcement official told Newsday in December.
Last week, two of the accused adults, Queens residents Carlos Guerra, 18, and Yonathan Sanchez, 22, pleaded not guilty in Nassau County Court to murder charges in both slayings.
The arraignment of the third adult named in the indictment is expected shortly, sources said Tuesday.