Two gang members who are in the US illegally held three teenage girls against their will in Houston, Texas, and killed one of them in a satanic ritual, authorities have said.
Miguel Alvarez-Flores, 22, and Diego Hernandez-Rivera, 18, members of the notorious MS-13 gang from El Salvador, have been arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping and murder – both first-degree felonies punishable by up to life in prison.
Bonds totalling 300,000 dollars (£244,000) have been set for each, but an order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will keep them behind bars.
A 15-year-old girl’s body was found on February 16 with gunshot wounds to the face and chest.
Homicide detective Sergeant Chris Sturdivant said the girl’s identity has not been officially determined but investigators are confident they know who she is – a girl reported missing in January in nearby Jersey Village.
The captives were three “young, impressionable women” aged 14 to 16 who succumbed to the allure of gang life before being taken to an apartment and held against their will, Sgt Sturdivant said.
A 14-year-old girl told investigators they were fed drugs and alcohol and forced to have sex.
She said the 15-year-old was killed in a satanic ritual because she had struck the gang’s shrine to a satanic saint, according to investigators.
She told investigators that Alvarez-Flores made a peace offering to the figure in the form of a cigarette.
“He returned from the statue and told the entire group that the beast did not want a material offering but wanted a soul,” District Judge Maria Jackson said during the men’s initial court appearance.
The 14-year-old said she later woke to find the 15-year-old gone, according to investigators.
The case comes as President Donald Trump promotes concerns over criminal immigrants in the US illegally.
He has announced that he plans to create an agency, called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement or Voice, to serve victims of immigrant crime and their relatives. It will be part of the Department of Homeland Security.
“The majority of the MS-13 members we come into contact with are here illegally,” Sgt Sturdivant said.
He said both men had admitted their involvement in the abductions and killing after their arrests on Monday.
MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing civil war in El Salvador. It is now a major international criminal enterprise.
The Houston case emerged the day after federal prosecutors in New York state said they had charged 13 MS-13 members with killings in the Brentwood area of Long Island.
The dead included three high school students, including two girls, who were killed with a machete and baseball bats as they walked through their suburban neighbourhood.
Thirteen members of local cliques of the MS-13 gang were charged with a series of violent crimes and seven killings over a five-year period.
Among the dead were Brentwood High School students Nisa Mickens, 15, and Kayla Cuevas, 16, who were ambushed by a carload of other teenagers on September 13, and their former schoolmate Jose Pena-Hernandez, 18, whose corpse was found in the grounds of an abandoned state psychiatric hospital after his disappearance in June.
Prosecutors revealed 10 of the 13 indicted people were citizens of El Salvador or Honduras who were in the US illegally.