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High-ranking MS-13 gang member pleads guilty to 8 murders, including Long Island teen girls


Alexi Saenz, a high-ranking member of the MS-13 gang, pleaded guilty in federal court in Central Islip, New York, on Wednesday to eight murders.

Among the deaths, Saenz pleaded guilty to killing two Long Island teenagers — 16-year-old Kayla Cuevas and 15-year-old Nisa Mickens — in 2016.

Officials previously said they believe the murders arose from disputes Cuevas and her friends had with members of MS-13 at Brentwood High School.

Saenz, along with several other suspected MS-13 gang members, were arrested for the teens’ deaths in 2017. Charges against his brother, Jairo Saenz, who was also arrested at the time, remain pending.

“The murders, particularly of these two girls, young ladies, were particularly heinous,” Robert Capers, then–U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said at a news conference following their 2017 arrest. “They were beaten to death in the street with machetes and bats over seemingly nothing and left in the streets or in the backyard of a house to die. These were terribly heinous crimes.”

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for the two Saenz brothers, but Attorney General Merrick Garland said in 2023 they would no longer do so.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, a poster displayed at a Suffolk County police precinct in Bay Shore, N.Y.

In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, a poster displayed at a Suffolk County police precinct in Bay Shore, N.Y., offers a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the slayings of Nisa Mickens and her lifelong friend Kayla Cuevas.

Michael Balsamo/AP

The murders of the two girls garnered national attention, with then-President Donald Trump inviting their parents to the 2018 State of the Union.

“Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens,” Trump said during his speech. “Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders.”

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