The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced Tuesday that it had sought custody of two MS-13 members accused of beating and stabbing a 14-year-old girl to death in Maryland last month.
Josue Fuentes-Ponce, 16, of Bladensburg, Md. and Joel Escobar, 17, of Northeast Washington D.C , both natives of El Salvador, were arrested by Prince George’s County (Md.) police last week and charged as adults with first-degree murder in the death of Ariana Funes-Diaz, whose body was found in a creek May 15.
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In a statement, ICE said it had lodged a detainer with the Prince George’s County Detention Center in May 2018 after Fuentes-Ponce and Escobar were arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, participation in gang activity, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted robbery, among other offenses. However, the agency said both were released “on an unknown date and time without notification to ICE.”
From left to right, Josue Fuentes-Ponce, Joel Escobar and Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi are charged with first-degree murder (George’s County Police Department via AP)
“These individuals had demonstrated violent criminal behavior before, and because they were released in spite of the lawful detainer, they were afforded an opportunity to take a life.” ICE Baltimore Field Office Director Diane Witte said in the statement.
The Prince George’s County Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.
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Investigators say Funes-Diaz was killed on April 18 by Fuentes-Ponce, Escobar, and 14-year-old Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi to prevent her from informing police about a robbery the four had taken part in the day before.
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“This is not two gangs warring with each other,” Prince George’s County Police Maj. Brian Reilly told police at a news conference last week. “This is a gang that turned on itself, turned on an associate in extremely violent behavior.”
According to ICE, Fuentes-Ponce crossed into the U.S. in December 2015 “as part of a family unit” in Texas. An immigration judge ordered his removal in absentia in March 2017. Escobar was taken into custody as an unaccompanied juvenile in August 2016 near McAllen, Texas and was later released to a family member in the Washington D.C. area.
Fox News’ Robert Gearty contributed to this report.
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