Nassau police have charged a Uniondale man with the killing of a teenager last year whose remains were discovered Wednesday buried in East Meadow amid thick brush near the Meadowbrook Parkway, authorities said.
Carlos Benitez-Hernandez, 21, of Harding Street, faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the unidentified teenager’s killing, Nassau police said in a news release late Wednesday night.
Earlier, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said investigators believed MS-13 gang members killed the victim.
“It is MS-13,” Ryder said at a news conference near the crime scene. “We believe we have about five of these individuals involved already in custody.”
Ryder said it was not known if the victim was a gang member.
Late Wednesday night, Nassau police officials had no additional information on the suspect or his arrest.
The cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner’s autopsy, Ryder said, and DNA testing will determine his identity.
Police said more information about the case will be released at a Thursday news conference. Benitez-Hernandez is expected to be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Hempstead.
The killing took place at 11 p.m. on Aug. 13, 2017, according to court records, which also showed that police on Wednesday issued a warrant for Benitez-Hernandez’s arrest.
Local and federal agencies conducted the search in scorching heat at a dried-up sump just east of Meadowbrook Parkway, Kellenberg Memorial High School, and the Catholic cable TV station Telecare, and south of Glenn Curtiss Boulevard.
Acting on a tip to law enforcement, police found the remains in a shallow grave about a foot and a half deep, Ryder said.
The victim was believed to be “in his late teenage years,” and was killed where he was found, Ryder said.
The dig was to continue into the night, he had said earlier, but it remained unclear early Thursday if material found at the dig site led investigators to Benitez-Hernandez.
“Again, we are reminded of the brutality of gang violence,“ Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news conference across the street from the site and several hours before police charged the Uniondale man.
“We will once and for all eradicate the violence,” Curran said. “There are too many parents, too many families, who have seen their children butchered by these gangs, and this must stop.”
Ryder noted that multiple remains of MS-13 victims have been recovered over the past 12 to 14 months. He said there have been no killings tied to the gang this year.
“The county is safe,” Ryder said. “The community is safe.”
“This is another grim discovery,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said, vowing to “hold to account” those responsible.
“It was someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend,” Singas said of the remains found Wednesday. “There is no place for this in Nassau County.”
Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the Nassau police homicide squad, said the investigation was not connected to the school or any businesses in the area, which is near the Uniondale border.
Fitzpatrick likened the search to an archaeological dig. About 15 people took part in the search, which was focused on a 25-foot by 25-foot area, police said. Authorities had to slash their way through the bramble to search for the grave and body.
With Bridget Murphy, Joan Gralla and Ellen Yan