New York MS-13 Gang Leader Admits Role in Eight Murders, Including Tragic Deaths of Two Teen Girls

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. – A high-ranking member of the notorious MS-13 gang admitted guilt to a series of grisly charges, including involvement in eight murders, one of which claimed the lives of two Long Island high school students brutally killed in 2016. Alexi Saenz, 29, faced federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday, delivering a stark reminder of the gang’s violent grip on some New York communities.

During his court appearance, Saenz, through his attorney, acknowledged his role in authorizing violent acts against those who challenged or disrespected the gang. Among the victims were Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, whose deaths drew significant national attention and spotlighted the brutal nature of MS-13 operations on Long Island.

The brutality of these murders, executed with machetes and baseball bats, as Saenz and his associates pursued the teenagers through their neighborhood, underscored the terror MS-13 inflicted locally. The killings became a focal point during Donald Trump’s presidency, with the former president visiting Long Island and using these incidents to push for stringent immigration policies and law enforcement measures.

The national spotlight widened following the tragedy, leading to intensified scrutiny of local police efforts to suppress gang violence, particularly in schools and suburban areas. Despite not being present at the scene of Cuevas and Mickens’ murders, Saenz had prior knowledge and had discussed the plan with involved gang members.

U.S. Eastern District Attorney Breon Peace emphasized the horrific nature of the crimes committed under Saenz’s leadership, branding his hands as “drenched in blood.” Saenz’s plea also encompassed his involvement in six other murders and three attempted murders, painting a grim portrait of his criminal activities extending beyond just orchestrating violence.

The aftermath of these brutal acts saw significant law enforcement action, resulting in the arrests of numerous suspected gang affiliates. Saenz’s own admittance covered a broad array of crimes, including arson, firearms offenses, and drug trafficking, which funded further criminal endeavors.

While facing a potential 40 to 70-year prison sentence at his upcoming January sentencing, the decision not to pursue the death penalty has been a point of contention, particularly among the families of the victims. Freddy Cuevas, Kayla’s father, expressed profound disappointment over the decision, advocating for harsher consequences for Saenz whom he described as “inhumane.”

Elizabeth Alvarado, mother of Nisa Mickens, echoed a sentiment of relief that a lengthy trial would be avoided yet conveyed a palpable desire for peace following her daughter’s tragic death.

Reflecting on the broader social implications, the murders prompted significant anti-gang initiatives, including community outreach and tighter school security protocols. Kayla Cuevas’ mother, Evelyn Rodriguez, who became an outspoken anti-gang activist following her daughter’s death, tragically died in 2018 during a confrontation over a memorial, which further highlighted the ongoing community turbulence.

In a community still healing from the terror inflicted by MS-13, the pending sentencing of Saenz offers a critical juncture for justice and possibly, closure for families that have been grappling with loss. Meanwhile, charges against Saenz’s brother, Jairo, also implicated in the gang’s local leadership, remain pending, keeping the community alert to the ongoing legal repercussions and the broader struggle against gang violence on Long Island.