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Gang killer testifies defendant admitted killing toddler

An undated photo of Adalberto Guzman, MS-13 gang

An undated photo of Adalberto Guzman, MS-13 gang member involved in the killing of the 19-year-old mother, Vanessa Argueta her 2-year-old son Diego Torres. Credit: Handout

A former member of the MS-13 street gang testified Wednesday that a defendant accused of killing a 2-year-old toddler and his mother told him that he had shot the child to death, but the mother's former boyfriend had killed her.

The former gang member, Santos Calderon, testified the defendant, Adalberto Guzman, told him about the murders shortly after they occurred in February 2010, while Calderon was hiding Guzman in a Far Rockaway apartment along with two other MS-13 members. The three later fled to El Salvador.

Guzman told him they "had come from a mission where we had killed a woman and child," Calderon testified in federal court in Central Islip under questioning by Eastern District prosecutor Raymond Tierney. "Mission" is the gang's slang for going to murder someone.

Along with Guzman, the other two MS-13 members believed by officials to be involved in the slayings of the toddler, Diego Torres, and his mother, Vanessa Argueta, 19, in a wooded Central Islip lot are her former boyfriend, Juan Garcia, and Rene Mejia.

Mejia has pleaded guilty in the killings, and Garcia is being sought by the FBI.

Garcia "told me that he had killed a woman" as they smoked marijuana, Calderon testified.

After his mother was shot to death, "the little boy began to cry. He was full of blood [and] began to hold his [Garcia's] leg," Calderon said Guzman told him.

Calderon testified Guzman said Garcia "didn't have the nerve" to shoot the child, so he picked the toddler up, "took him in his arms and shot him as he was holding him, and shot him in the head."

In his testimony, Calderon did not say what role, if any, Mejia had in the shootings.

Previous witnesses have given varied accounts of how the killings occurred.

FBI agent Sean McMullen testified Guzman confessed to him that he had killed Argueta, and that Garcia had killed the toddler. A former gang associate, Carla Santos, testified that Guzman told her Garcia killed Argueta, but that both he and Mejia fired a single shot into the 2-year-old.

Calderon admitted that he has pleaded guilty to taking part in another MS-13 murder, that of Nestor Moreno, a security guard at a Hempstead bar, in March of 2010, a month after the Torres-Argueta killings, and is cooperating with the government to avoid a life sentence.

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