Two teenagers and a man who are reputed members of the MS-13 street gang were ordered held without bail Friday on charges they forced a 16-year-old into a wooded area of a Long Island golf course, where two of them took turns raping her while the third stood as a lookout.
"This is one of the most brutal, heinous crimes that I have seen in a long, long time," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said at a news conference following the suspects' arraignments. "This poor young woman is so lucky that, quite frankly, that she is alive. These are vicious young men, vicious young men and what they did to her was absolutely terrible."
Spota, calling the attack "barbaric," identified the suspects as 17-year-old Jose Cornejo, 18-year-old Bryan Larios and 17-year-old Joel Escobar, all of Brentwood. All three are from El Salvador and are members of the MS-13 street gang, Spota said. The teenagers are being charged as adults.
Their attorneys entered not guilty pleas to a grand jury indictment charging them with rape, assault, sexual abuse, robbery and other crimes. An attorney for Larios denied his client was involved. Cornejo's attorney said he is just beginning to investigate the charges and Escobar's attorney had no comment.
Prosecutors said the three were arrested on May 29, hours after the attack occurred. Spota said police identified Cornejo as one of the suspects because the victim gave investigators a detailed description of a tattoo he has on his chin and police were familiar with him. The prosecutor described the tattoo as a distinctive skull adorned with flames; Spota said Cornejo tried to leap out of a window to elude police when they came to arrest him.
The three are accused of approaching the girl and a male friend at a Brentwood middle school. They allegedly robbed and beat the friend, who then fled the scene. The trio then allegedly told the girl they had a weapon and forced her to walk about a half-mile to a secluded area of the Brentwood Country Club golf course. It was there, prosecutors said, that Cornejo and Escobar raped the girl while Larios acted as a lookout.
She was later found walking out of the woods nearly naked by golfers, who called police.
Attorneys for the suspects said their clients were high school students, but Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso disputed that, saying he did not believe any of the three attended school.
Escobar and a fourth man — also a suspected MS-13 gang member — were charged with robbing and beating a man on April 28 at the same middle school. Escobar was also charged with threatening the victim with violence if he reported the incident to police. His attorney also pleaded not guilty on his behalf to those charges.
-Roseanne Colletti contributed to this report