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Kayla Cuevas’ mother: ‘Today’s a good day ... Justice has prevailed’

Eight MS-13 street gang members were taken into custody by law enforcement officers on Thursday, March 2, 2017, and have been charged by federal prosecutors with a host of racketeering crimes, including the 2016 killings of two teenage girls in Brentwood. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely; News 12 Long Island, Ed Betz

Kayla Cuevas’ mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, had already left her Brentwood home Thursday morning to make her way to work when her cellphone rang. On the other end was her husband, joined by Suffolk police detectives, who spoke the words she’s been waiting for: “We got them.”

Nearly 6 months after the brutal killings of Cuevas, 16, and her best friend Nisa Mickens, 15, the families devastated by the loss of the promising young women said they were grateful to law enforcement for their dogged efforts in arresting and securing indictments against the accused.

“Today’s a good day, a celebration,” Rodriguez said. “Justice has prevailed.”

The day was dominated by a swirl of emotions, family members of the slain said: relief, joy and gratitude that justice was on the horizon, mixed with the omnipresent sadness that the girls are gone.

Mickens’ father, Robert, said he was impressed with the speed at which suspects were apprehended. But he said all is still not good for him and his family, including wife, Elizabeth Alvarado, and his daughter’s siblings, Andres, 22, and Eliza, 25.

“Nisa was the baby of the family — she would have been 16,” Mickens said. “This has been painful, very painful. Every day’s a new challenge — some days are good and some days it’s difficult to go to work. She’s everywhere with us.”

There were tears and hugs, Rodriguez said, as the family members converged Thursday morning at the Third Precinct in Bay Shore to meet with police Commissioner Timothy Sini and other members of the department after the early morning arrests of five MS-13 gang members, part of an indictment charging 13 gang members with seven slayings. The details of the allegations against another three juveniles are sealed.

“Right now, I’m just overwhelmed with happiness, again with sadness, but most of all, they caught the individuals,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very grateful for Commissioner Sini keeping his promise.”

Sini, who sat with Rodriguez in the courtroom as she set eyes on at least four gang members accused of killing her daughter, said the families had been through “an unspeakable nightmare.”

The accused killers’ family members, some of whom sobbed throughout the arraignment, declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

“Nisa’s mother said that she didn’t want to cry today because she’s been crying for six months, and today she was going to enjoy what justice felt like,” Sini said.

Sabrina Mayes, 43, and a stay-at-home mom who lives in Central Islip, said in a telephone interview Thursday that while she’s grateful someone may be held responsible for the May 2013 killing of her son, Derrick Mayes, 21, whose killing was also alleged to have been committed by MS-13 members included in the indictment. But it can’t do what she’d like to do most — bring her son back.

“He was just walking and minding his business listening to some music on his phone when he was shot,” Mayes said. “It’s hard because I know they’ve [the suspects] been caught but at the same token my son is gone. We’ve been dealing with it for three years.”

Rodriguez, resolute at times and also tearful, said she sought solace in her faith. Before she made her way to the courthouse, she stopped inside a chapel.

“I went in and prayed,” she said. “My prayers were answered.”

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