SPRINGFIELD, Va. - Police have charged two adults and three 17-year-olds with murder in connection with the death of a 15-year-old Maryland girl in Virginia.
Damaris Reyes Rivas was reported missing in December, and her remains were found near Lake Accotink Park in Springfield on Saturday.
Police say a total of four adults and six teenagers were arrested in connection with Rivas' murder, and they were all charged with abduction and gang participation.
The four adults charged have been identified by police as Jose Ivan Castillo Rivas, 18, Springfield, Wilmer A. Sanchez Serrano, 21, Cindy Blanco Hernandez, 18, and Aldair J. Miranda Carcamo, 18.
Rivas and Sanchez Serrano are the two adults charged with murder in addition to the abduction and gang participation charges.
The medical examiner ruled that the 15-year-old girl died from multiple forms of trauma to her upper body. Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler called it a "savage, brutal killing." He said police have video evidence, but would not elaborate.
Police would not identify the gang involved, but Damaris’s mother, who now fears for her own life, says the brutal Salvadorian gang MS-13 is responsible. Her mother also says that she has been getting threats from members of the gang blaming her for the arrests that police have made.
Kevin Donovan with the FBI Washington field office commented about working to identify international threats saying, “with regards to trying to identify threats coming from outside the US, particularly from Central America the FBI is partnered with other federal agencies including the state department to develop transnational anti-gang task force down in El Salvador.”
ICE has lodged detainers for all four adult suspects in this case, which means they are either here in the country illegally or they violated the terms of their legal status in the U.S. It also means that they are requesting that Fairfax County notify ICE before these people are released.
Venus Iraheta, a 17-year-old Fairfax County girl who returned home Tuesday night after she was reported missing by her mother on Jan. 15, has also been taken into police custody related to this murder case. Iraheta's mother confirmed to FOX 5 she has been in the country for nearly 10 years illegally.
Another recent missing persons case involving 16-year-old Lizzy Rivera Colindres and her 5-month-old baby is also connected to Rivas' murder. Also reported missing on Jan. 15, both the teenager and child returned home last Saturday night -- on the same day Rivas' remains were discovered. Police confirmed this was not a runaway case and the 16-year-old left against her will.
The baby's father, Jose Castillo Rivas, was arrested two days later for violating a stay away order and is also one of the adults facing murder charges in the death of Damaris Reyes Rivas.
Police in Prince William County say that the Jan. 12 death of Christian Sosa Rivas, 21, who was found washed up on the banks of the Potomac River in Dumfries, may also be connected to the gang investigation.
In Northern Virginia, there is a task force that specifically tracks gangs like MS-13. Jay Lanham, the director of the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force, said they are seeing an increase in violent crime related to these gangs, which are recruiting people as young as children in elementary school and they lure them through social media and parties where they offer them drugs, alcohol and sex.
"There are many different cliques in the area and they have their own local leaders, but they get a lot of guidance and orders that come out of El Salvador,” said Lanham. “A lot of these individuals are from El Salvador and were involved in the gang life down there before they came to the U.S.
"Their weapons of choice are handguns, knives and machetes and that has been that way for a long time. Sometimes their murders tend to be very brutal. You can imagine someone using a machete on another person. So I don't think we see anything along the lines of a ritual. Sometimes they may want to make a statement with the brutality of the crime.”
He added that for the most part, the crime committed by these gangs tends to be within their cliques or gang-on-gang crime.
A Department of Homeland Security official told FOX 5 they have seen an uptick in violence from MS-13 in the region in the past two years. He said 18- and 19-year-olds in high schools work to recruit younger kids to help them carry out crimes because they are aware charges are less serious for juveniles.