The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) had deported Oscar Ernesto Delgado-Perez, the third suspect in a gang-related murder, twice before to El Salvador. Delgado-Perez then illegally entered the country again, to allegedly kill 20-year-old victim Cristian Antonio Villagran-Morales.
In his bond review on September 8, prosecutor Robert Hill told District Court Judge Zuberi Williams that Delgado-Perez was just about to leave to Texas when police found him.
“He said to police: ‘If I hadn’t been drunk this morning, you guys would never have caught me,’” said Hill.
According to ICE, they deported 28-year-old Delgado-Perez on October 24, 2014, and again on February 26, 2015. The ICE also placed a detainer on Delgado-Perez after County Police charged him with the murder of Villagran-Morales, which took place in Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg.
“Mr. Delgado-Perez has twice been deported from the United States and then snuck back into the United States only to commit this particular crime,” said State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
McCarthy said he believes in cases like these, the suspect needs to be held accountable for their crimes in the counties or jurisdictions they committed them in, regardless of how long the sentence is.
“If a person committed a homicide in Montgomery County, and they were not even legally here, I will tell you, based on experience, if that person is convicted and they are sentenced, they need to serve their sentence,” McCarthy said.
“The reality is if you do not keep them incarcerated, these violent offenders, they’ll go home, and then they’re just going to come back again and you’re going to be victimized again. That’s the reality. If we convict someone, whether they’re legally or not legally here in the United States, the sentence given by the court has to be served here domestically.”
McCarthy said this is not the first time he has seen a case with similar circumstances.
“Time and time again, that’s what happened. We’ve had that before, we’ve had that where people have been deported and have come back and have committed violent crimes,” McCarthy said.
An ICE official said in cases where the immigrant commits a crime in the United States, they serve their time in the U.S. before the localities hand them over to ICE.
Illegally reentering the country is a crime, and once ICE has custody of an immigrant who has committed that crime, the immigrant has to serve time for the separate charge of illegally reentering the country.
“We cannot hold someone for punitive reasons. So ICE detention is not punitive in nature,” said the official. “It is not continued punishments for any other crimes you have committed.”
The official also said the ICE prioritizes which immigrants to find first, based on how dangerous the immigrant is. There are three categories the ICE places immigrants in three “priorities.” The first priority consists of “threats to national security, border security and public safety.” Immigrants who are members of a gang fall in this category.
“These transnational gangs are bringing a lot of crime to this country. They are a public safety threat,” the official said.
Police found Villagran-Morales’ body in the wooded pathway at Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg back in June.
According to Hill, the suspects stabbed Villagran-Morales 40 times because they believed he was a member of a rival gang called the 18th Street gang.
“The victim in this case was stabbed 40 times (and) in the process begged for his life and they showed him no mercy,” Hill said.
McCarthy said police believe 19-year-old Vanesa Alvarado lured Villagran-Morales to the wooded area of the park by telling him they would meet for a sexual encounter.
“It was not a sexual encounter, it was a trap where there was a plan set in place by the defendant and the other individuals to attack him,” McCarthy said.
On July 17, police arrested Alvarado, and 16-year-old Juan Vasquez-Gutierrez. According to police reports, the suspects told police there were two other MS-13 gang members involved in the murder, Delgado-Perez, who was the “ringleader” in this murder, and Jose Coreas-Ventura.
Spokesperson for the County Police Rebecca Innocenti said through further investigation they located Delgado-Perez at the Red Roof Inn on Shady Grove Road on the morning of September 7 and charged him with first-degree murder.
According to Detective Mike Carin, gangs such as the MS13, in which Delgado-Perez is a member, will prioritize which members they help, based on what ranking they have in the organization.
Detective Dimitri Ruvin said the reason Delgado-Perez was still in the country about two months after assisting the murder was because the MS13 did not have enough money beforehand to move him out of the county. However, Ruvin also said police do not know how long he was in the country before committing the crime.
Director of Special Crimes Captain Paul Liquorie said typically there are “networks” of the MS13 gang that work to move their members out of the area in cases such as these.
“Obviously, because he was here prior to the homicide and was living here, more than likely his immediate network was closely in and around Montgomery County. So he relied on that as he was in the process of arranging to hopefully get out to Texas,” Liqourie said.
According to Liquorie, this was the 10th gang-related homicides since last September in the county, which includes homicides committed by “crews,” or smaller neighborhood gangs.
“Some of (the increase in gang violence) is based on some of the events that are going on in El Salvador,” Liqourie said. “(This includes) the near recent truce breaking down between the El Salvadorean government and (the 18th Street and MS13) gangs which is increasing the pressure on them in El Salvador and the leadership down there.”
Liqourie also said gangs are now trying to make their presence more prevalent in the community after the large-scale prosecutions of MS13 gang members in 2010 and 2011.
McCarthy said this increase in gang related homicides is a concern for MCPD and the State’s Attorney’s office and it is important for the community to step in and help police when it comes to these crimes.
Liqourie said gang members count on the fear of the community to continue their work. He said there have been cases where several gang members who have committed crimes in other states come to Montgomery County where other gang members harbor them.
“The gangs in particular are using people who may not have status here to their advantage, to prey on that community, using the threat of turning them in or hoping they won’t go to authorities because they know that they don’t have status,” Liquorie said.