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Witness: Bar fight preceded killing of mom, toddler

Vanessa Argueta with her son Diego.

Vanessa Argueta with her son Diego. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The decision to kill 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta and then her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, began with a bar fight, a turncoat member of the MS-13 street gang testified Wednesday.

Jeremias Amaya, of Far Rockaway, said in federal court in Central Islip that he was at a Hempstead bar in January 2010 with fellow MS-13 members -- including Argueta's sometime boyfriend, Juan Garcia, and Adalberto Guzman -- when they got into a fight with members of the rival 18th Street gang.

Guzman, 19, of Central Islip, is on trial for conspiracy to murder Argueta and Torres -- charged with killing them in a wooded Central Islip lot a month after the bar fight. Garcia has fled the country and is being sought by the FBI. A third MS-13 member has pleaded guilty in the killings.

After the fight, Argueta, of Hempstead, who was friendly with members of the 18th Street gang, told Garcia that "they shouldn't fight with those people because she said they were 'her friends,' " Amaya said through a Spanish interpreter under questioning by Eastern District federal prosecutor John Durham.

Amaya said Garcia cursed at her and told her "it was none of her business."

Then Guzman said "not to worry [because] he was going to fix that problem," Amaya said. Amaya said he understood that to mean in gang slang that they were going to kill her.

Witnesses at Guzman's trial have said that one of the gang's rules is to kill anyone who shows disrespect toward MS-13.

Amaya is testifying as a government witness in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence after his guilty plea in which he admitted taking part in the murder of a fellow MS-13 member.

On the witness stand, Amaya acknowledged he used a machete to help kill Mario Quijada on a Far Rockaway beach in March 2010, six weeks after the Argueta-Torres killings. Quijada was killed because he had violated another MS-13 rule and refused to kill members of rival gangs, Amaya said.

A few days later, Amaya said, he was talking with a leader of MS-13, Heriberto Martinez, who told him he knew about the Argueta situation, and that she "was hanging out with" members of a rival gang. Martinez, 25, of Far Rockaway, was convicted earlier this year of approving the plan to kill Argueta and her son.

After the slayings of Argueta and Torres, Amaya said, he didn't run into either Guzman or Garcia, but he met Martinez. Martinez "was happy because the homeboys had fixed the problem," Amaya testified.

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