Family members of victims Michael Lopez and Jefferson Villalobos gather at...

Family members of victims Michael Lopez and Jefferson Villalobos gather at the spot off of Clayton Ave in Central Islip where their bodies were found on April 14, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

A reputed MS-13 member who allegedly spent years on the run after participating in the brutal 2017 slayings of four young men in a Central Islip park is now facing federal murder and racketeering charges following his extradition from Guatemala, authorities said Friday.

Henry Edenilson Salmeron, 22, formerly of Brentwood, pleaded not guilty at an arraignment before U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco on Friday in connection with the killings. The quadruple homicide rattled a Suffolk County community already beset with fears about MS-13's reach and violence before the discovery of the victims' mutilated remains near a soccer field in April 2017.

Federal prosecutors said Salmeron is the ninth MS-13 member or associate to be publicly charged in the homicide case, with six defendants still facing trial after two other defendants previously pleaded guilty and got sentences of 50 or more years in prison.

The victims of the deadly violence on April 11, 2017, were Justin Llivicura, 16, of East Patchogue; Jorge Tigre, 18, of Bellport; Michael Lopez Banegas, 20, of Brentwood; and Lopez Banegas' cousin, Jefferson Villalobos, 18, who was visiting the area from Pompano Beach, Florida.

Law enforcement officials have said MS-13 members believed the victims were rival gang members who had been disrespectful to their organization, so they lured them into the woods with the help of two female associates before attacking them with machetes, knives, wooden clubs and an ax.

A day after the victims were found, the girlfriend of one of them received a graphic video file depicting dead bodies, including her boyfriend's remains, lying together, Newsday previously reported.

Family members of the victims have denied they were gang members.

The U.S. Marshals Service and FBI found Salmeron in Guatemala before a transnational anti-gang unit arrested him there in February, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Then extradition efforts began that resulted in the defendant's arrival in the United States on Thursday to answer to the indictment that has him facing up to life in prison, prosecutors said Friday.

"Although this defendant sought to evade answering for these horrific crimes by fleeing more than 3,000 miles from the Central Islip park where he and his fellow MS-13 gang members callously slaughtered four young men, the relentless determination of our law enforcement partners led to his capture and extradition, and he will now face justice in a courthouse that overlooks that very same park," Eastern District Acting U.S. Attorney Jacquelyn Kasulis said in a statement Friday.

Salmeron's arraignment attorney declined to comment on the case Friday, saying he wouldn't be representing him as it continued. The lawyer who will represent the defendant couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

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