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Court records: Teen charged in beating death had attacked man a day earlier

Nassau police investigate on Feb. 3 near where

Nassau police investigate on Feb. 3 near where the body of Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez was found.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

The teen charged with the beating death of a man expected to testify against his MS-13 attackers from a 2018 assault had also attempted to kill the man Feb. 1 — then returned the next morning to finish the job, court records obtained Friday show.

The court documents identify the suspect as Axel Daniel Sierra Argueta, 17, of Siegel Street in New Cassel, who was arrested by Nassau County police Saturday. He was also among 11 attackers who stabbed and wounded the same man, Wilmer Maldonado Rodriguez, 36, during a gang-related attack in October 2018, the records show.

Sierra Argueta has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Rodriguez, authorities said.

Rodriguez, who was homeless, was found bludgeoned to death Feb. 2 outside an abandoned house on Broadway in New Cassel shortly after his identity as a victim willing to testify in the 2018 assault was released as part of the pretrial discovery process, authorities said.

In October 2018, Maldonado-Rodriguez was attacked and seriously wounded by MS-13 gang members when he tried to intervene after they threatened two boys, authorities said. In the criminal complaint made public Friday, Sierra Argueta is identified as "acting in concert with ten (10) apprehended others" involved in that attack, which occurred at the Park Avenue School in New Cassel.

The identity of Sierra Argueta was not released at the time of his arrest. Court records show he has been remanded following arraignment on Sunday and that he appeared in court Friday, when the criminal complaint naming him was made public.

The complaint also alleges that at about 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, Sierra Argueta attacked Maldonado-Rodriguez with a blunt object at the abandoned house location, "attempting to cause his death." That complaint said that at about 6:08 a.m. on Feb. 2, Sierra Argueta, "while armed with a blunt object, did intentionally strike" Maldonado-Rodriguez at the same site in New Cassel, "multiple times about the head and body causing his death."

Maldonado-Rodriguez was expected to testify against his MS-13 attackers from the 2018 assault, Nassau police previously said.

His identity was originally under a protective order. Court records show in late December a judge instructed prosecutors to share his name with defense attorneys, but the defense was not to disclose it to their clients until the trial's scheduled start Jan. 6, according to the attorneys and court officials.

The trial did not start on that day. But in interviews, lawyers for the defendants, Denis Pineda, 20, and Elian Ramos Velasquez, 19, said they did not disclose the name to their clients.

The death of Rodriguez prompted outrage this month from Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Executive Laura Curran, who initially linked his killing to recently enacted criminal justice reforms that speed up discovery. Ryder said acts of intimidation against Rodriguez began after the prosecution disclosed his name to the defense.

But later in the day, Ryder and Curran, who was out of the country at the time, said there was no direct link to the change in the law.

Following Sierra Argueta's arrest on Saturday, police did not publicly identify him because he initially was charged as an adolescent offender, a new classification under New York State's Raise the Age legislation passed last year.

With Vera Chinese and Michael O'Keeffe

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