BALTIMORE(WJZ) — One of the nation’s most violent gangs is connected to a rash of kidnappings of young girls in our region, and likely, a murder. Authorities say they’re recruiting children as young as 11-years-old.
WJZ Investigative reporter Mike Hellgren has the latest on the action being taken against MS-13.
Federal authorities had cracked down on the gang more than a decade ago. Many members did go to prison, but now there is a resurgence.
The gang is believed to be connected to the disappearance of several teenage girls, and one Gaithersburg teen was murdered.
15-year-old Damaris Reyes left violence in El Salvador for safety in Maryland, but the notoriously violent MS-13 gang lured her in, and after a falling out, police found her body dumped in the woods.
Her murder was caught on camera, and was so vicious even police wouldn’t describe what happened.
“Savage, brutal killing. It was horrific. I’ll leave it at that,” says Virginia’s Fairfax County Police Chief Roessler.
Reyes’ mother says her daughter was recruited at her school.
“She was so sweet. She trusted in everyone. And that was her problem.”
In some cases, MS-13 has lured in girls by promising them friendship and security, but then held them against their will and sold them for sex.
An acquaintance of Reyes, 17-year-old Venus Ireheta, also disappeared, then turned up safe.
A third teen, Lizzy Colidres also returned home after disappearing with her five-month-old son.
“We are seeing an increase in recruiting in high schools and middle schools, which is alarming to us,” says Jay Lanham with the Regional Gang Task Force.
There have been so many cases, Baltimore City Police even took the step of denying any connection of the gang to the disappearance of mother Joanna Clark and her daughter Shariece, who vanished from Cherry Hill.
“We don’t have any belief that this is connected to some of the other cases that we have seen locally in this Baltimore-Washington region,” says Baltimore City Police spokesperson T.J. Smith.
Federal authorities arrested MS-13 leaders in Baltimore a decade ago, however, gang graffiti was found in Bel Air last November.
Recent murders have been largely in Montgomery County, including a teenager stabbed more than 40 times.
After the murder of her daughter, Damaris Reyes’ mom has this message:
“In their schools, check their friends, because they’re inside,” she says.
Police say it’s important to note these are targeted, not random cases.
In Montgomery County alone there were six murders linked to MS-13 last year.