A member of the violent MS-13 gang has pleaded guilty to the murders of four people, including the slaughter of high school best friends who were chased down on a Long Island street, beaten with bats and hacked with a machete.
Enrique Portillo, 26, pleaded guilty to racketeering and firearms charges in four cases: the Sept. 13, 2016, killings of Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15; the Oct. 13, 2016, murder of Dewann Stacks; and the Jan. 30, 2017 murder of Esteban Alvarado-Bonilla. He also admitted his participation in four attempted murders, including the discharge of a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun in one of the attempted murders and arson, officials said.
When he’s sentenced on Jan. 19, Portillo faces up to life in prison on the racketeering charge and a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence on the firearms charge. The Salvadoran will also be deported, officials said.
During the hearing, victims’ family members walked out of the courtroom during the graphic recounting of the gruesome killings, the New York Times reported.
At one point, Portillo interjected, “I am guilty,” the paper reported. David Stern, his lawyer, read a statement saying his client admitted to being a member of MS-13 and apologized, according to the Times.
“I committed crimes with the group so that I could remain a part of the group,” he said. “I knew the things I did were wrong and illegal. I’m very sorry for my actions.”
Portillo and other MS-13 gang members drove up to Nisa and Kayla as they walked near an elementary school, jumped out of a car and attacked them, then hopped back in the car and drove off. Nisa’s slashed and beaten body was found that night. Kayla’s body was discovered the following day behind a house.
The killings happened after Kayla had been in disputes with MS-13 members and associates. The disputes escalated into a fight between her and several friends and MS-13 members at her school, Brentwood High. After that fight, MS-13 members vowed to seek revenge against Kayla, authorities said.
The tragedy prompted her mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, to become an anti-gang activist. She and Nisa’s family were invited to appear with then-President Donald Trump in 2018 in a speech titled “What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13.”
Kayla’s family was hit by a second tragedy when Rodriquez was struck and killed by a motorist in a dispute as she set up a memorial for her daughter and Nisa near the spot where they were killed.
The motorist, Annmarie Drago, who was involved in selling a house near the site, destroyed the memorial, threw away candles, a tablecloth, flower bouquets and vases, and put a table, photo and floral arrangement in the back of her SUV, and left, prosecutors said. Then she returned and got into a dispute with Rodriguez over the memorial.
During the confrontation, Drago accelerated the vehicle, fatally striking Rodriguez, officials said. Drago was charged with criminally negligent homicide, criminal mischief in the fourth degree, and petit larceny and was sentenced to nine months.
But an appellate division reversed the conviction, saying the prosecutor made improper comments during jury summation. The case is set for a retrial, with jury selection set for Sept. 26.
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Enrique Portillo admits killing Kayla Cuevas, Nisa Mickens
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