WASHINGTON - “I grabbed her by the throat and I couldn’t help but hit her.”
That is what 18-year-old Venus Romero Iraheta said during an interrogation with police as she confessed to the brutal gang-related murder of a 15-year-old girl in Fairfax County.
The interrogation video was recorded on Feb. 14, a month after the murder. Officials released it Wednesday just days after Iraheta’s guilty plea.
After she first denied being responsible for Reyes Rivas’ death, Iraheta confessed to the crime.
Iraheta, who was 17 years old at the time of the murder, told interrogators that she sought to avenge the death of her boyfriend, Christian Sosa Rivas, a known member of MS-13. She believed Reyes Rivas was responsible for his death and arranged to have her taken into the woods at Lake Accotink Park, where Iraheta tortured and interrogated Reyes Rivas before stabbing her to death.
In the interrogation video, Iraheta describes what she said to the victim.
Through a translator, Iraheta told police: “You're going to remember me until the day we see each other in hell. Don’t forget my name. And I told her my full name and I told her my nickname. And I told it to her and I told her to never forget who I was. I told her someday we were going to see each other again.”
Officer: “And then what did you do?”
Iraheta in English: “I killed her.”
Officer: “How did you kill her?”
Iraheta in English: “With a knife.”
Officer: “What did you do with the knife?”
Iraheta in Spanish: “I don't remember how many times I stabbed her in the stomach.”
Officer: “Was it a lot?”
Iraheta in English: “Thirteen. Something like that.”
Officer: “Why 13?”
Iraheta in English: “I don’t remember. No, I think it was 12 here (pointing to her stomach) and the 13th was in here (pointing to her neck)."
Investigators say Iraheta did not act alone. Nine others were arrested in connection to Reyes Rivas’ death.
According to court documents, Reyes Rivas, who was a student at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was taken from Montgomery County to Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County where several MS-13 gang members were waiting.
“I asked her if at any time she had something to do with Christian,” Iraheta told interrogators. “She said yes. I said I’m not going to forgive you … I told her, 'I warned you not to mess with me. I told you not to mess with Christian. I told you to stay away from him or you would see what would happen. You don’t play with me.' So I hit her. I kept hitting her. Until they stopped me."
The victim was then forced to walk through the snow and cold without her shoes and shirt. Documents show Iraheta told Reyes Rivas several times she would die that day. Iraheta also sliced off a tattoo Sosa Rivas had given to Reyes Rivas on her hand.
Reyes Rivas was then taken to a wooded area near an Interstate 495 overpass where Iraheta and the group stabbed her repeatedly in the stomach, chest and neck, according to officials.
“I left the knife in her neck,” Iraheta recalled.
“Who took it out?” the interrogators asked.
“I went back and took it out, and gave it to someone else,” said Iraheta.
As Reyes Rivas lay dying, authorities said two others stabbed her in the neck with a sharpened stake. In all, officials said Reyes Rivas was stabbed 19 times. Authorities said the group then used a rope to drag her body to an area under the I-495 overpass and put her face down in a shallow puddle and covered her with railroad ties.
“Does [the murder] bother you?” interrogators asked Iraheta, who is seen shaking her head “no.”
“Why doesn’t it bother you?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” replies Iraheta.
According to officials, much of the brutal crime was recorded on video with the intent to send it to the MS-13 leadership in El Salvador for promotions within the ranks of the gang. Officials said the video was recovered from Apple's Cloud and was a key part of their investigation.
Iraheta faces a maximum of life in prison plus 20 years when she is sentenced on May 25.