What to Know
The butchered, beaten bodies of best friends Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, and the remains of Jose Pena-Hernandez, were found in September
Authorities had believed the slayings were connected to MS-13 gang activity, but no one had been charged with the killings until Thursday
Police have arrested more than 120 known MS-13 gang members on a variety of charges as part of a larger takedown over the last few months
The parents of the two teenage best friends found killed on a Long Island street and nearby backyard six months ago were by turns emotional and stoic after learning that 13 alleged MS-13 gang members were indicted in the murders.
"We have justice today," said Evelyn Rodriguez. "We are happy but also sad."
Inside her home, where candles still burn for slain daughter Kayla Cuevas, Rodriguez was in tears moments after learning about the arrests.
"I know she's in heaven looking down, and she must be having a big smile on her face," she told News 4, crying. "I wish I could just hug her."
"I told her we got them."
Robert Mickens, father of Nisa Mickens, said, "It's been since September since they passed away, and six months later, they captured these people -- it's great."
In a calmly delivered message for his daughter's alleged killers, he said: "Good luck to you. Good luck. You guys made a mistake. I wish you all the luck."
Mickens' brutally beaten body was found on a tree-lined street in Brentwood Sept. 13, a day before her 16th birthday. A day later, the beaten body of Cuevas, her lifelong friend, was discovered in the wooded backyard of a nearby home. Investigators had suspected the young girls -- best friends with a passion for basketball -- were victims of gang violence. Though several MS-13 gang members were previously arrested in connection with the probe, none had been charged with the killings until Thursday.
Capers said that four gang members had been looking for a rival gang member to attack or kill when they spotted the girls. They recognized Cuevas from a prior altercation with MS-13 members, called their "leader" and got approval to kill her and her friend, Capers said. The girls died by "swinging baseball bats and machetes," Capers said, adding Cuevas ran for her life.
Alexi Saenz, 22, Selvin Chavez, 19, Enrique Portillo, 19 and two then-juveniles are accused of murder in the girls' deaths.
They're among 13 suspects who are facing charges in the deaths of seven people in the small Long Island community; 10 of them are undocumented immigrants, according to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers.
The FBI and Suffolk police carried out joint raids at multiple locations known to be connected to the notorious El Salvadorian MS-13 gang Thursday morning and arrested four of the named defendants.
The indictments include charges of murder, conspiracy, racketeering and other crimes.