The mother of an alleged MS-13 member whom authorities said fellow gangsters hacked to death after he cooperated with law enforcement officials forgave two of her son’s murderers before a Nassau judge sentenced them to prison Tuesday.
“When they took the life of my son, they stopped my heart,” Reina Majano, 48, said in Nassau County Court through a Spanish language interpreter.
But the mother of victim Carlos Rivas-Majano, 22, of Uniondale, also told defendants Luis Varela Hernandez and William Reyes-Fuentes she didn’t hate them — despite her pain and suffering.
“I’m not wishing anything bad on you … I’m telling you both today ‘God bless you,’” Majano added.
Neither defendant spoke before Nassau Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan meted out their penalties. In June, both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and second-degree conspiracy in the victim’s August 2017 slaying.
Corrigan sentenced Varela Hernandez, 24, of Mineola, to 21 years to life in prison. She sentenced Reyes-Fuentes, 27, of Uniondale, to 20 years to life in prison.
"I wish we all had the strength you have and the compassion you have ... that you can stand up here and forgive these gentlemen for what they did to your son," the judge told the victim's mother.
Prosecutors said Varela Hernandez used the street name "Felon" and Reyes-Fuentes went by "Desobediente."
They said the two were among members of MS-13's “Downtown Criminals” clique that lured Rivas-Majano into the woods near the Meadowbrook State Parkway and Glenn Curtiss Boulevard before launching a deadly machete attack.
Newsday reported in 2018 that law enforcement sources said the gang had targeted Rivas-Majano for death because of his cooperation with authorities.
Court records showed Hempstead police in May 2015 arrested Rivas-Majano, then 19, on multiple weapon charges — including two felonies — after allegedly finding him with a loaded semiautomatic gun.
But in March 2016, he got a deal in which he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of stolen property and got a sentence of jail time served in a court proceeding that was sealed. A judge also sealed the transcript of the proceeding.
Prosecutor Jared Rosenblatt confirmed in court Tuesday that Rivas-Majano had assisted authorities, saying the victim had "testified as a witness for the District Attorney's Office prior to this killing."
Law enforcement officials said Rivas-Majano went into the woods believing he only was getting “a 13-second beatdown,” one of the gang’s methods of punishing members for violating MS-13’s rules.
Prosecutors said the victim told a family member on Aug. 11, 2017, that he was on his way home from a Uniondale deli — but then never arrived.
Investigators found Rivas-Majano’s remains in a shallow grave on Aug. 29, 2018, after a tip.
Murder charges remain pending against three more alleged MS-13 members in connection with Rivas-Majano's death. Another defendant pleaded guilty in 2019 to Rivas-Majano's killing and another murder and is serving 32 years to life in prison.
Reyes-Fuentes’ attorney, Steven Barnwell, said after Tuesday's sentencing that his client had taken responsibility for his actions and that his sentence "reflects the fact that of all the defendants involved, his involvement was the least."
Varela Hernandez's attorney, William Shanahan, didn't immediately comment.
Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement that the defendants "participated in one of the most violent murders this county has ever seen."
She added: “The defendants and their co-conspirators mercilessly hacked Carlos Rivas-Majano to death and left his body in a nearly inaccessible place near the Meadowbrook Parkway. Thanks to extraordinary work from our prosecutors and detectives, we were able to find Carlos’ body and bring his killers to justice.”
After the sentencing, the brother of one of the defendants offered an apology to the victim's mother.
Majano's eyes welled up as Gilberto Varela Hernandez, 40, of Uniondale, took one of her hands in his and then hugged her.
He said in a Newsday interview that the young men had been friends, that his brother had come to the United States from El Salvador only eight months before the crime and that his family didn't know his brother was involved in a gang.
"We're all devastated because we're a good family," Varela Hernandez added.
He said he told the grieving mother "that we were sorry and that we are also devastated."