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Alleged MS-13 member charged in Uniondale killing held without bail

Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, head of the Nassau County Police Department’s Homicide Squad, provided new details Thursday of the second arrest in connection with the suspected MS-13 machete killing of a man whose remains were found in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday / Stefanie Dazio

A Nassau judge ordered an alleged MS-13 gang member held without bail Thursday after authorities said he participated in the 2017 killing of a Uniondale man whose body was dumped in a shallow grave in East Meadow.

Jose Quintanilla Cruz, 23, of Hempstead, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Carlos Rivas-Majano, 21. Quintanilla Cruz and at least four other members of MS-13 used machetes to kill Rivas-Majano in August 2017 before discarding his body, authorities said.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Quintanilla Cruz appeared for his arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead in front of Nassau County District Judge Maxine Broderick. He is scheduled to return to court Monday and is represented by the Legal Aid Society. 

“At the time and place aforesaid,  the defendant, while acting with others, did intentionally cause the death of the victim, by striking him numerous times with a cutting instrument, believed to be a machete," a criminal complaint stated.

Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Nassau Police Homicide Squad said Quintanilla Cruz belonged to a locally based MS-13 clique called “Downtown Criminals.” Fitzpatrick said he expects additional arrests to be made in the killing of Rivas-Majano, a suspected MS-13 member whom law-enforcement sources have said was slain because the defendants believed he cooperated with authorities as an informant.

“Jose is part of a larger group,” Fitzpatrick said at a news conference Thursday in Mineola. “When they do this, they don’t do it alone.”

Fitzpatrick did not identify Rivas Majano as a member of MS-13 and would only say the victim was “associated” with his alleged killers and “known to them.” 

Last month, police arrested Carlos Benitez-Hernandez, 21, of Uniondale, and charged him with second-degree murder in connection with the killing. Benitez-Hernandez pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail. 

Investigators recovered Rivas-Majano’s remains in August in a wooded area south of Glenn Curtiss Boulevard near Kellenberg Memorial High School. At the time, authorities said Rivas-Majano was “viciously and barbarically” attacked by at least five MS-13 members.

Quintanilla Cruz has remained in federal custody for about a year regarding his immigration status, Fitzpatrick said. Cruz is from El Salvador and Fitzpatrick said he is “absolutely” a member of the transnational gang.

Fitzpatrick said Quintanilla Cruz was arrested for criminal possession of a knife in 2015 but he did not know the disposition of the case. The outcome of that case was not immediately available in online court records.

Law enforcement’s recent efforts to curtail the gang’s violence on Long Island have made a difference, Fitzpatrick said.

“I think we’re on the offensive and they’re on the run,” he said.

No family members for the victim or Quintanilla Cruz could be reached for comment Thursday.

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