‘They nearly decapitated him’: Grisly details emerge in trial of alleged MS-13 gang leader in Alley Pond Park murder

gang leader on trial
Crime scene investigators collect evidence in Alley Pond Park in 2017.
File photo by Mark Hallum

Grisly new details have emerged in the brutal murder of a 16-year-old gang member at Alley Pond Park in Bayside a half-decade ago. The revelations were presented Monday in Brooklyn federal court as the murder trial of reputed MS-13 gang leader Melvi Amador-Rios, 32, got underway.

Amador-Rios allegedly ordered the killing of Julio Vasquez after the teenager failed to kill his friend, thus falling out of favor with MS-13, according to federal prosecutors.

“On that May evening, the defendant and two other MS-13 members lured him to the park where the two lower-ranking members stabbed him over and over and over until he was dead,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rafaella Belizaire said during his opening statement. “They nearly decapitated him. And they did it because their leader of the gang, the defendant, Melvi Amador-Rios ordered them to.”

Vazquez was left to die in a remote and heavily wooded part of the park known for its natural and ungroomed wetlands.

Crime scene investigators collect evidence in Alley Pond Park in 2017.Photo by Mark Hallum

“The very next day, Julio Vasquez’s mother, concerned about her son, went to the police, and tried to report Julio Vasquez missing,” Belizaire said. “Vazquez’s body was found later on May 21 of 2017 by an unsuspecting bird watcher who smelled and saw a decomposing body.”

Amador-Rios, a Briarwood resident known as “Letal” and “Pinky,” is also accused of ordering a “series of murder missions,” including a hit on a rival gang member in Jamaica on Oct. 23, 2016.

gang leader
Melvi Amador-Rios, the reputed MS-13 gang leader who is standing trial for allegedly ordering the killing of a 16-year-old boy in Bayside’s Alley Pond Park in 2017.Photo courtesy of EDNY

“Louis Serrano, who was a 16-year-old boy that the defendant’s clique believed was a member of the rival 18th Street gang, and his association with 18th Street was enough for the defendant’s clique to target him for death,” Belizaire said. “Like good foot soldiers, and with the expectation of rising in the ranks, they tracked down Luis Serrano, attacked him and ultimately shot him in the head.”

Serrano survived the attack.

“As that 16-year-old boy lay motionless on the sidewalk, one of the defendant’s underlings tried to fire the weapon a second time, a kill shot, but miraculously, the gun jammed,” Belazaire said. “As a result, Luis Serrano lives to tell you that after undergoing multiple surgeries, he’s confined to a motorized wheelchair as a paraplegic.”

The prosecutor said that in the coming weeks, Serrano will testify at the trial of Amador-Rios along with the survivors of four separate gunpoint robberies at businesses in Jamaica — all ordered by Amador-Rios, according to Belizaire, who added that the trial will also feature testimony from former MS-13 members.

“You’ll see crime scene photographs and guns that were recovered from the gang. You’ll also see phone records showing that the defendant was in telephone contact with his co-conspirators leading up to and during the robberies,” Belizaire told the 16 jurors. “You’ll also hear from an expert who analyzed cell site location records for the defendant’s cell phone which show that the defendant and his crew’s phones were in the area of the charged crimes at the time the crimes were committed. That expert will explain that the defendant’s phone and the phones of his accomplices were in the area of the park on the night Julio Vazquez was murdered.”

Amador-Rios is charged with murder, murder conspiracy, robbery, attempted murder, assault and firearms offenses. His attorney, Murray Singer, urged the jurors to pay attention to every detail in the coming weeks.

“The crimes are horrible. The crimes all happened. But here’s the thing, Melvi’s position — and I, as his representative as I speak to you, the defense position — is that he didn’t do these things. He wasn’t involved,” Singer said during his opening statement. “Keep an open mind, wait until you’ve heard everything because there may be some questions of one cooperating witness and then another cooperator may come in and testify about some of the same things and you may want to consider both of the testimonies together to decide whether you believe what you hear from either one or both of them, all right. So hold off on judgment, keep an open mind.”