ROCKVILLE, Md. - A Montgomery County judge sentenced a 17-year-old boy to 40 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a stabbing death that prosecutors described as demonic.
Prosecutors claim the 2016 murder was carried out by the MS-13 gang simply because they thought the teenage victim was a member of a rival gang.
In court on Thursday, prosecutor Robert Hill told Judge Anne Albright that Juan Gutierrez-Vasquez had just turned 16 years old when he agreed to take part in the murder of Christian Villagran Morales. Gutierrez-Vasquez held the victim down in a Gaithersburg park as other gang members took turns stabbing the teen. The victim was stabbed 153 times.
The prosecutor pointed out Gutierrez-Vasquez had been a member of MS-13 before coming to the United States from El Salvador and the teenager had a day to think about it as his fellow gang members planned the murder.
The defendant's lawyer asked for mercy by saying Gutierrez-Vasquez had a horrible childhood, only had a fourth grade education and acted along with the gang due to peer pressure and after being bullied.
Gutierrez-Vasquez said in court on Thursday, "I'm sorry, but my life was in danger. Maybe they can forgive me. God has already forgiven me."
"I feel tranquil now because he got 40 years," said the mother of the victim through a translator. "There was some justice."
It was determined that the victim was not a rival gang member and he had only acted out in bravado by flashing gang signs to three people he had just met, not knowing they were members of the MS-13 gang.
"He did flash some gang signs trying to impress these young men who were around him and he did not realize that they were part of MS-13, and that did cause them to report back to their hierarchy. In fact, he was greenlighted because of that," said Ramon Korionoff, spokesperson for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office.
A female co-defendant who lured the victim into the park was also sentenced to 40 years in prison.