Senior MS-13 gang member confesses to 8 murders, including teenage girls from Long Island
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Senior MS-13 gang member confesses to 8 murders, including teenage girls from Long Island

Alexi Saenz, a senior member of the MS-13 gang, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip, New York, to extortion charges in connection with eight murders.

Prosecutors said under the deal he faces a sentence of 40 to 70 years in prison.

Among other charges, Saenz confessed to the killings of two Long Island teenagers — Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15 — who were killed in September 2016. Prosecutors said several gang members chased and attacked them with baseball bats and a machete.

Prosecutors said the teens’ murders stemmed from a series of arguments and altercations Cuevas and her friends had with MS-13 members at Brentwood High School. After the altercation, gang members “swore revenge on Cuevas,” according to prosecutors.

Saenz, along with several other suspected MS-13 gang members, was arrested in the 2017 deaths of the teens. Charges against his brother, Jairo Saenz, who was also arrested at the time, remain pending.

“To say that Alexie Saenz’s hands are covered in blood is an understatement to describe the numerous killings and extreme mayhem he personally directed and committed over the course of a single year in Suffolk County,” Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a news release Wednesday. “While these murders and brutal crimes were intended to further MS-13’s vile mission, the defendant failed miserably.”

Senior MS-13 gang member confesses to 8 murders, including teenage girls from Long Island

In this Oct. 24, 2016 file photo, a poster is displayed at the Suffolk County Police Department in Bay Shore, New York, offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the murders of Nisa Mickens and her longtime friend Kayla Cuevas.

Michael Balsamo/AP

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for the two Saenz brothers, but Attorney General Merrick Garland said in 2023 they would not do so.

The murders of the two girls captured national attention, and then-President Donald Trump invited their parents to his 2018 State of the Union address.

“Tonight, here are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens,” Trump said in his speech. “Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the brutal MS-13 gang have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders.”

Saenz was charged in connection with the murders of six other people whom MS-13 members suspected of having ties to rival gangs, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors described Saenz as a leader in the killings, who often gave orders to gang members to carry out attacks or gave the green light to do so.

Saenz also faces charges of three attempted murders, arson, drug trafficking and firearms offenses.

Suffolk County Acting Police Commissioner Robert E. Waring called Saenz’s crimes “senseless and barbaric.”

“The murders of teenagers Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens have shaken our communities and resonated across the country,” Waring said. “I hope this guilty plea provides some measure of solace to the victims’ families while also demonstrating our commitment to dismantling these criminal enterprises.”