An MS-13 gang member who plunged a thick stick into the neck of a dying 15-year-old girl in an attack caught on cellphone video has been sentenced to more than three decades in prison.
Wilmer Sanchez Serrano was sentenced Friday to 33 years in prison for his role in the death of Damaris Alexandra Reyes Rivas. The 15-year-old Maryland girl was tortured and found dead in Virginia last year.
Serrano was convicted of second-degree murder, abduction and gang participation. He was one of 10 young people charged in Reyes Rivas' death.
"He stabbed this child in the neck multiple times while she was on the ground bleeding already," prosecutor Casey Lingan said.
Video shows Serrano gripping a large stick with two hands and stabbing Reyes Rivas with it. In a taped interview with police, he spoke about the attack matter-of-factly.
"It was about that high," he said, gesturing to estimate the size of the stick he used.
On the witness stand, the victim's mother, Maria Reyes, spoke about life without her daughter.
"I feel such a pain. Such a wound. Such despair," she said in Spanish.
Reyes recalled tearfully how excited her daughter was to wear the quinceañera dress she had picked out for her big party. Instead she was buried in it.
During Serrano's trial, jurors sat in stunned silence as they watched video of the deadly attack. The footage showed Reyes Rivas being tortured and stabbed. The teen's family members and Serrano cried as the video played.
In court, Serrano admitted to stabbing Reyes Rivas but said he didn't want to. MS-13 members made him, he said.
Prosecutors said in closing arguments: "He purposefully impaled her with that stick over and over and over and over. This was not someone who was forced into participating."
Serrano's defense said, "He's guilty of murder, but not first-degree. Acting out of fear and panic is not first-degree murder."
The judge rejected the defense's plea to reduce the sentence recommended by the jury.
Reyes Rivas had been missing from her Gaithersburg, Maryland, home for two months before her body was found near an industrial park in Fairfax County, Virginia, in February. Before she left her home, she told her mother she was being threatened by gang members at school.
Investigators believe Reyes Rivas was killed to avenge the death of Christian Sosa Rivas, whose body was found Jan. 12 along the Potomac River, near Dumfries, Virginia.
Search warrants show Reyes Rivas -- who was slain less than a month after Sosa Rivas -- was one of the last people to see him alive. Court documents suggest Reyes Rivas may have been blamed for helping to lure Sosa Rivas to his killers.
Ten alleged gang members have been charged in Reyes Rivas' death, including Sosa Rivas' girlfriend, Venus Romero Irahete.
Investigators believe Irahete was the chief attacker. Investigators portrayed her as bent on revenge and wanting to inflict some of the fatal wounds herself.
Authorities say Reyes Rivas was picked up in a car and taken to Lake Accotink in Springfield, Virginia, on Jan. 8. The group assaulted her and made her stand in snow without her shirt or shoes.
They then interrogated her about Sosa Rivas' death.
Iraheta told investigators she stabbed the girl 13 times and sliced off a tattoo, according to testimony.
"She told the victim she would never forgive her,” FBI Agent Fernando Uribe said. “She would see her in hell. She would never forget her name."
Of the 10 defendants, two have gone to trial and been convicted. Another awaits trial. Five pleaded guilty, and two others are expected to plead guilty.