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Feds: Gang members killed LI mom, toddler

Photo of Vanessa Argueta with her son Diego.

Photo of Vanessa Argueta with her son Diego. Credit: Handout

A 2-year-old boy watched his mother get shot to death by MS-13 gang members in a wooded section of Central Islip last year before one of them turned the gun on the crying toddler, killing him, according to federal court papers.

The mother, Vanessa Argueta, 19, had taken her young son, Diego Torres, with her on what she thought was a dinner date last February because she didn't have a baby-sitter, the court papers said.

Among those who took part in the execution-style killings, according to the federal documents, was the mother's former boyfriend.

The account of the killings is contained in recently unsealed court papers, implicating MS-13 member Adalberto Guzman, 17 at the time, as one of the three people involved in the killings of the mother and son, according to federal prosecutors.

The suspects tried to persuade Argueta to leave her son at home, knowing they had no intention of taking her to dinner, "but she didn't have anyone to watch her son," according to the court papers.

Guzman had originally been arrested as a juvenile in the case, but federal prosecutors had successfully argued last month that he should be charged as an adult in the killing, resulting in the recent unsealing of what were juvenile court records.

In a related development Thursday, a federal judge ruled that a second person arrested as a juvenile in the killings can also be tried as an adult.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bianco in Central Islip said that while the second suspect was only 16 years, 8 months old at the time of the murders, he had a violent history and remained loyal to MS-13, with which, authorities said, he had been affiliated since he was 13. The name of that suspect was not immediately released.

The third MS-13 member accused of being involved in the fatal shootings is still at large. His name was not released. He was a former boyfriend of the mother and sought vengeance after they broke up and she unsuccessfully had asked rival gang members to harm him, according to court papers.

According to the court papers, the former boyfriend shot Argueta twice in the head.

The boyfriend then handed the gun to the person given adult status Thursday, after the 2-year-old "began crying and hugged [the ex-boyfriend's] leg," the papers said. That person and Guzman then each shot the child, the papers said.

Attorneys for Guzman and the second suspect did not return calls for comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

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