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Long IslandCrime

DA: Alleged MS-13 member indicted in Massapequa Preserve slaying

Raul Ponce leaves Nassau police headquarters in Mineola

Raul Ponce leaves Nassau police headquarters in Mineola on June 6. Credit: Newsday

A grand jury has indicted a reputed MS-13 member on a murder charge after he allegedly killed a perceived enemy of the gang with a machete in the Massapequa Preserve three summers ago, according to prosecutors.

An attorney for Raul Ponce, 21, of Hempstead, said his client pleaded not guilty Thursday at a Nassau County Court arraignment.

Prosecutors say Ponce, who also faces a murder charge in a separate alleged gang killing, fatally attacked Bryan Steven Cho Lemus on Aug. 23, 2016.

The slaying happened after the 18-year-old Uniondale man was lured into the park with the promise of a party with sex and drugs, according to authorities.

Law enforcement officials recovered the victim's body in a shallow grave in May and arrested Ponce in connection with the crime about two weeks later, the Nassau District Attorney's Office said.

Ponce's co-defendant in the Lemus slaying, alleged MS-13 member Gerson Stanley Juarez, 23, of Hempstead, also has been indicted for murder in the case.

Court records show Juarez pleaded not guilty at an arraignment earlier this month.

Prosecutors said more suspects in the slaying "remain unapprehended."

Separately, Ponce faces a murder charge in the 2017 slaying of Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, 19, of Valley Stream, in the same park.

Ponce's attorney, David Haber, said his client hasn't been indicted in that case.

"I'm looking forward to reviewing the evidence and continuing forward with his not guilty plea," Haber said Thursday following Ponce's arraignment in the Lemus case.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a prepared statement Thursday that Ponce's murder indictment was "another step" toward eradicating MS-13 violence in the county.

Ponce also is scheduled for trial next week on a perjury charge, records show.


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