Nassau police on Sunday identified the human remains found during a search last week in a wooded area on the Roosevelt-Baldwin border as those of 16-year-old Angel Soler of Roosevelt — whose mother said she brought him to the United States to flee gang violence in their native Honduras.
The remains of Soler, who police said had been missing for three months, were found after police, acting on a tip, began searching the woods adjacent to the Southern State Parkway and a residential neighborhood.
Suyapa Soler, 31, Angel’s mother, said in an interview Sunday she believes her son, a former Freeport High School student, was killed by a gang. But she declined to publicly reveal her reasons, saying police — who notified her around noon Sunday that her son’s body was found — asked her not to go into detail.
Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder issued a statement in response to Newsday’s request for comment: “This case is still under investigation and our detectives are looking into all avenues of the cause of death and who may be attributable to it.”
Ryder last week could not say whether the search for remains was linked to MS-13 gang violence, which has left 22 people in Suffolk and Nassau counties dead since 2016. Sources had previously told Newsday that investigators were searching for a victim of gang violence.
After the September 2016 MS-13 gang killings of Kayla Cuevas, 16 and Nisa Mickens, 15, in Brentwood, Suffolk police found the remains of three young men, believed to be victims of MS-13.
Suyapa Soler said in Spanish that she arrived in the United States from Honduras 11 years ago and brought Angel — also known as Joshua — over four years ago, to protect him from gangs that were ravaging their home city of San Pedro Sula.
Angel was friendly with former Freeport High School classmates Kerin Pineda, 20, who disappeared in May 2016, and with Josué David Amaya, who disappeared in September 2016, said Lilian Oliva, the mother of Pineda.
Police did not confirm that Pineda and Amaya are missing. In his statement, Ryder said: “As far as other missing persons, all cases are provided with exceptional investigative resources to determine the nature and motive of the missing person.”
Soler had been missing since July 21, according to police. He was last seen leaving his Roosevelt home on his mint-green bicycle at 5 p.m., detectives had said at the time.
Nassau police said Thursday that Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, received a “detailed” tip from a “person of interest” about the possibility of human remains at the 27-acre site, which includes a pond.
Oliva, 38, said Sunday a group of young men or teenagers had threatened her son two weeks before his disappearance because of the sneakers he was wearing, telling him that only they could wear red and white Nikes.
Claudia Erazo, 33, Amaya’s sister, said that not long before his disappearance, her brother said he felt threatened at school. But she said her brother — also known as Joshua Aguilar — didn’t have enemies and didn’t mention gangs to her.
Erazo said she fears all three were the victims of gang violence, but she still holds out hope Josué is alive. “Everyone says my brother is dead,” she said. “The truth is only God knows.”
Erazo said her brother rarely went out at night and, when he did, always told her where he was going. On the night of his disappearance, Erazo — concerned by the threats at school — called Josué’s cellphone.
“He said, ‘I’m with a girl,’ ” speaking almost in a whisper, Erazo recalled. She now wonders if he was lured from home by the promise of meeting a girl.
With Candice Ferrette
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Angel Soler's school status.