Defendant Leniz "La Diablita" Escobar.

Defendant Leniz "La Diablita" Escobar. Credit: USANYE

The jury appears to be close to a verdict in the federal trial of a young woman who prosecutors say played the roles of both "bait" and "mastermind" in the MS-13 killings of four victims at a Central Islip park nearly five years ago.

The panel of 12 sent a note to U.S. Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco after about three hours of deliberations Thursday in the trial of Leniz Escobar, saying they were "substantially in agreement."

The note added: "There are, however, several jury members who would like the chance to sleep on it and come back on Monday."

The judge dismissed them and asked them to report back at 9:30 a.m. Monday — a day that will mark the five-year anniversary of the killings.

Those who died were: Jorge Tigre, 18, of Bellport; Justin Llivicura, 16, of East Patchogue; Michael Lopez, 20, of Brentwood; and Lopez's cousin, Jefferson Villalobos, 18, of Pompano Beach, Florida.

The mutilated remains of the victims were found near a soccer field close to the courthouse where Escobar's trial is underway. Now 22, she has pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment charging her with racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering.

Prosecutors say MS-13 had believed based on social media posts that the eventual sole survivor of the attack, Elmer Artiaga-Ruiz, now 22, and his friends were either members of the rival 18th Street gang or had disrespected MS-13. 

Escobar showed the photos to gang members and helped hatch an execution plan, according to federal officials. They've alleged Escobar, then 17, and another female conspirator, Keyli Gomez, then 16, lured Artiaga-Ruiz and his friends to the scene of the attack by saying they'd smoke marijuana.

Artiaga-Ruiz testified he escaped by running and jumping over a fence. He later led police to the victims' bodies. Gomez, now 21, pleaded guilty and became a cooperating government witness.

Prosecutors contend Escobar, who used the social media handle "La Diablita" or "the little devil," was a "devoted associate" of MS-13 who set the victims up to be killed in order to enhance her position within the gang.

But defense attorney Jesse Siegel told jurors his client wasn't an associate of the gang, which only accepts males as members, but got protection because she was dating a high-ranking member of another MS-13 branch.

He said prosecutors had failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, including that Escobar had intended for the slayings to happen.

Escobar told police in the aftermath of the killing that she fell victim to a robbery in the woods at the hands of strangers, before she and Gomez took off running while hearing sounds of the terrifying attack.

Siegel expressed nervousness after court Thursday, saying the defense didn't have "a crystal ball." A spokesman for prosecutors declined to comment.

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