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Nassau DA: MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to murder

Elmer Gutierrez arrives at the Nassau County Courthouse

Elmer Gutierrez arrives at the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola in 2019. Credit: Newsday

An MS-13 member has admitted to helping plan a 2018 slaying in Queens before wielding a machete in an attack that left a teenager dead in Nassau County days later, authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors said Elmer Gutierrez pleaded guilty Wednesday in Nassau County Court to conspiring to murder victim Ian Cruz, 23, in a Far Rockaway park. He also admitted murdering victim Howard Sermeno, 17, behind Five Towns Community Center on the border of Lawrence and Inwood, according to the Nassau district attorney’s office.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Tammy S. Robbins committed to giving Gutierrez, 21, of Valley Stream, a sentence of 20 years to life in prison when he is due back in court next month.

Prosecutors said Gutierrez used the street name "Revolver" and played a role in a killing spree that involved a half-dozen defendants as part an effort to form a new local faction of the MS-13 gang.

Last summer, the judge sentenced alleged MS-13 leader Yonathan Sanchez, to 34 years to life in prison for his role in the crimes.

Prosecutors said a male defendant who was 15 at the time also previously pleaded guilty to murder and is awaiting an expected sentence of 8 1/2 years to life in prison. They said murder charges remain pending against Carlos Guerra, 21, of Far Rockaway, along with another boy, also then 15, and a girl, then 13.

Gutierrez’s lawyer Greg Madey said Thursday that his client came to the United States from El Salvador about age 16 and was "a very impressionable guy" who befriended a co-worker trying to start a local clique of the gang. Gutierrez, who had worked as a dishwasher, has accepted "what he did, what he was a part of," the Mineola lawyer added.

The 13-year-old lured the victims to their executions after contact through social media and text messages, according to the district attorney's office. A prosecutor said at Sanchez's sentencing that Sermeno was tricked into saying something negative about MS-13 before the gang ambushed him behind the community center.

Sermeno and the girl arrived together and smoked marijuana and drank alcohol before other gang members who were hiding nearby attacked, the district attorney's office said. Sanchez shot the Far Rockaway teenager five times with a .22-caliber revolver before Gutierrez sliced the victim's neck with a machete, according to authorities.

They said police recovered the teenager's body on Dec. 18, 2018, after a dog walker found his remains on the morning after his murder.

Sanchez used the same .22-caliber gun to shoot Cruz at Bayswater Point State Park in Queens, according to prosecutors. They said the girl enticed the Far Rockaway man to go there on Dec. 15, 2018, with promises of sex and drugs before the alleged MS-13 faction leader came out of some bushes and opened fire.

Gutierrez wasn't at the scene, according to authorities. But they said he sent photos of Cruz to a gang member and discussed killing Cruz with other MS-13 members in the days leading up to Cruz's murder.

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