An 18-year-old woman seeking to avenge the killing of her boyfriend pleaded guilty to stabbing the 15-year-old girl she believed was responsible 13 times in a brutal killing that was recorded on cellphone video and shown in court.
“Some kids are prodigies at the violin and some kids are prodigies at violence,” Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh said. “This is a prodigy at violence.”
Venus Romero Iraheta's guilty plea came on the one-year anniversary of Damaris Alexandra Reyes Rivas' death. Iraheta is one of 10 young people charged in Reyes Rivas' death.
“She tortured her and then she told her, ‘I'll see you in hell,’ and made sure the victim understood what her full name was,” Morrogh said. “That's just a level of cruelty even I'm not used to after almost 35 years in this business.”
Iraheta told investigators she stabbed the girl 13 times and sliced off a tattoo, according to testimony.
"Just pure evil," Morrogh said. "To torture to death a 15-year-old girl, it staggers the imagination."
Reyes Rivas left her home in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Dec. 10, 2016. She had told her mother she was being threatened by gang members at school.
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The night of Jan. 8, 2017, Iraheta and nine other young people allegedly took Reyes Rivas to an area near Lake Accotink Park.
They then assaulted and interrogated her about the recent murder of Christian Sosa Rivas, whose body was found Jan. 12 along the Potomac River in Dumfries, Virginia, police said. Sosa Rivas was Iraheta's boyfriend.
The deadly attack on Reyes Rivas was recorded, and the video included footage of her being tortured and stabbed. The video was shown Monday during Iraheta's hearing, as the victim's family wiped away tears.
They recorded the video to send to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador with hopes of being promoted in the gang, Morrogh said.
"It's kind of like a trophy they take," he said. "They show it off to the other gang members."
Investigators portrayed Iraheta as bent on revenge and wanting to inflict some of the fatal wounds herself.
The FBI special agent who questioned Iraheta after her arrest testified that Iraheta blamed Reyes Rivas for luring her boyfriend to his death. The night they took Reyes Rivas, the group forced her to stand in the snow with no shirt or shoes so she would "feel as much pain as Christian."
Iraheta faces a maximum of life in prison plus 20 years when she's sentenced May 25. Morrogh plans to seek a lengthy sentence.
Seven of the 10 people charged in the case have been convicted or pleaded in guilty, including three other suspects who pleaded guilty in October. Cindy Blanco Hernandez, 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of abduction by force and the abduction of another juvenile female in early January. Aldair Miranda Carcamo, 18, pleaded guilty to gang participation and two counts of abduction by force. Emerson Fugon Lopez, 17, pleaded guilty to abduction in connection with Alexandra's death and gang participation.
They are set to be sentenced May 5.
Morrogh hopes these prosecutions help halt the surge in MS-13 violence.
“Hard working people come here for the American dream, and this gang is ruining it for them,” he said. “They are terrorizing people who are here working two or three jobs and we've got to stamp them out.”