A 14-year old girl, who was found dead inside a tunnel a month ago, is investigated to have been killed by the gang she was about to report.
Ariana Funes-Diaz's body was found in a creek in Maryland near a tunnel in the woods. She was killed inside the tunnel, bare, overwhelmed with a baseball bat and slashed with a machete, as reported by The Washington Post.
She had been lured there on April 18, police said, by MS-13 gang members who worried she was about to hand them over to law enforcement.
Three teens, including another 14-year old girl, have been arrested and charged as adults with first-degree murder, Prince George’s County police announced, describing the death as an MS-13-related killing.
Funes-Diaz’s body was discovered in a wooded area in Riverdale, about one month after she was killed, police said.
Law enforcement located her after the Prince George’s County gang unit received information about a possible killing that occurred in April, said Maj. Brian Reilly, commander of the police department’s criminal investigation division.
An autopsy completed on May 16 determined Funes-Diaz died of blunt force trauma, police said.
It was less than a day earlier that the 14-year-old herself had been the one to draw a man to Northeast Washington, where he was beaten, robbed and interrogated about his gang affiliations, according to court documents and three individuals familiar with the investigation. But the man was a family friend, court documents said, and at one point, the girl begged for mercy for him.
Worried that Funes-Diaz would go to law enforcement, police said, the gang members brutally attacked her in an assault recorded on camera and left her.
A judge on Friday ordered Joel Escobar, 17, of Northeast Washington, and Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi, 14, of Lothian, to remain jailed without bond pending trial in Funes-Diaz's killing. A third suspect, Josue Fuentes-Ponce, 16, of Bladensburg, is expected to appear in court Monday. Authorities are still working to identify a fourth person, suspected of filming the attack on Funes-Diaz, according to police and court documents.
Funes-Diaz had run away from the youth group home where she had been living in Anne Arundel County, according to two individuals familiar with the investigation. Anne Arundel County police said she was reported missing April 11.
Hernandez-Nucamendi told police, according to charging documents, that she stood outside the tunnel during the attack, but heard "several distinct sounds, which she believed was [Funes-Diaz] "being struck with the machete." Escobar and Fuentes-Ponce came out of the tunnel with blood on their faces and clothes, charging documents said.
Fuentes-Ponce washed the bloody machete in the creek before they all walked out of the woods and drove off, according to charging documents.
The machete was later found still covered in blood in a park in the District of Columbia, charging documents said.