How brutal MS-13 killing gangs are ripping US communities apart, destroying families…. and getting worse every day
MARABELLA was wracked with worry when her 16-year-old son didn’t come home from school one night.
Having moved to Los Angeles from El Salvador looking for a better life, they were close and the teen would always tell her if he would be late home.
Marabella* immediately thought the worst, and began frantically posting on social media and calling friends – before alerting the police and reporting him missing.
For the next month and a half she scoured the streets and parks of her Los Angeles suburb every day looking for him – until she received the news she had dreaded – Brayan Andino’s lifeless body had been found, thrown down a nearby canyon.
Police told her how Brayan had been lured to a park after school by two female school friends – then killed by members of MS-13 – the dangerous street gang known for its macabre killings.
Shockingly that is all the detail she knows – and she is haunted by the thought that the bloodthirsty gang may have ripped out her son’s heart or mutilated him in some other gruesome way.
But her nightmare did not stop there – just months later her eldest son Jerson, 23, was also killed by the gang – this time shot dead in a drive-by shooting in a case of mistaken identity.
She claims neither of her boys were gang members or had anything to do with MS-13 – also known a La Mara Salvatrucha – the brutal street gang regular referred to by US President Donald Trump as “animals” and “monsters”.
Marabella, who has asked for her real name and identity to be hidden to protect her safety, lives in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles – pockets of which have been blighted by MS-13’s Fulton clique over the past two years.
The gang’s graffiti is daubed everywhere – on fences, walls and parks – and residents live in fear.
Some 22 suspected members of the Fulton clique were arrested last month accused of carrying out nearly 200 criminal acts – including hacking seven people to death in two years.
“Brayan was a young teenager when I brought him from our country here for a better future – but things did not go that way,” Marabella told Sun Online.
“He was going to school and he was studying – he was a good kid.
“He had these friends but I didn’t trust them so like every parent I tried to warn him against them.
Lured to his death
“But he didn’t listen. Two girls lied to him and brainwashed him to come to the park with him – and that is where they turned him in to them [MS-13].
“They were his classmates and he thought they were his friends but they led him to his death.
“I don’t know how he died or what happened at the park. The detectives didn’t want to share any information with me. I just know they took him from the park to the mountains.
“Nobody has ever told me anything. I only know what I’ve seen in the news or what I hear.
“I heard that one of MS-13’s victims had his heart ripped out and I immediately thought that it was my son.
“I still don’t know for sure if they did that to him or not.
“I don’t think they will ever tell me anything. It makes me very sad. I would like to know everything about how my son died.”
Machetes, baseball bats and knives
Authorities remain tight-lipped about the killing because it was Brayan’s 2017 death that lead a joint taskforce of FBI and police officers to begin digging into the Fulton clique.
But according to a federal indictment unsealed last month, gang members used machetes, baseball bats and knives to beat, bludgeon and stab seven people – including Brayan – to death over two years.
Six of those killings were carried out by gangsters trying to gain entry – or advance through the ranks of the gang, which requires those who want to join to kill a rival.
What is MS-13?
MS-13 is one of the most feared criminal gangs and boasts around 30,000 members around the world.
MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha gang originated in the Pico-Union neighbourhood of Los Angeles in the 1980s during the devastating crack epidemic that plagued US cities during the period.
Initially, it is claimed the gang aimed to safeguard Salvadoran immigrants from more established LA gangs.
But the outfit became the worst criminal clique of all – becoming known for its gruesome killings.
Many members were deported back to El Salvador after being arrested in LA.
But now the gang has a presence all over the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America.
There are conflicting versions of how the Mara Salvatrucha got their name.
A common explanation is that “Mara” means “gang” in Spanish, “Salva” for El Salvador and “trucha” is slang for “staying alert”.
One unnamed victim was dismembered and had his heart cut out for defacing the gang’s graffiti – which “covers nearly every available surface” around the Fulton clique’s “patch”.
All 22 of the suspects are currently in custody. There are also two more related cases – which are sealed – against juvenile defendants, believed to be kids at Brayan’s high school.
“He was scared”
Marabella said she knew Brayan’s school Panorama High School, Van Nuys, was a hotbed of MS-13 activity but had always warned her son to be careful.
She said before his murder he called her in a panic to tell her members of the gang had threatened him.
“That school has a lot of kids who were brought from El Salvador and they were already involved in MS-13 when they came,” she said.
“I don’t think Brayan was involved in MS-13 but he would come home from school and tell me about things that happened there, about fights and things.
“One time he called me – he was scared because they threatened to jump him. I rushed straight to the school to pick him up – I even got a parking ticket because I just parked the car anywhere – I just wanted my son safe.
“I don’t know why they targeted him. I have no idea. He was a good kid.
“I went to the school and told the principal there was MS-13 in the school but he disagreed with me and said there wasn’t.
“I said ‘yes the students have the gang tattoos but you don’t see it because they wear long sleeves’. I asked if they check the students for the tattoos.
“Then asked if I could see the security footage from the school cameras to see who took Brayan, who he walked out of the school that day and he refused.
“My son is dead because of them”
“The detectives were helpful, they helped find my son’s body but the school they weren’t cooperating.”
The school has come under criticism for its handling of Brayan’s murder – but it says it was ordered by authorities not to release any information because of the ongoing investigation.
The two girls who allegedly lured Brayan to his death were among five students, all aged 16 or 17, from the high school to be arrested in connection with the murder. They cannot be identified because they are juveniles.
“They need to pay for what they did – they both knew what they were doing and what happened,” Marabella said about the two girls who took Brayan to the park.
“One of them spoke up about it a while afterwards but they were there and saw what happened – they should have gone home and told their parents straight away and called the police.
“My son is dead because of them – it is their fault.”
Marabella said it was hard to cope when, still reeling from the death of Brayan, she got the news that her elder son was also killed back in El Salvador.
“With my older son it was a mistake – they were after another guy who was with him – he just happened to be there as well,” Marabella said.
“My son was not MS-13. The shooting was for territory but he wasn’t part of any of that.
“One day he was at his house with his girlfriend and their little daughter and he just stepped outside to go grab something and he ran into one of his friends.
“And they were talking when people on motorbikes just drove by and started shooting. That’s how they kill people.”
Marabella, who still has a 14-year-old daughter, says she will never get over losing both her sons – and is full of grief every day.
“You can’t just kill kids”
She also lives in fear of the gang, who she believes are getting worse.
But she praised Trump’s zero tolerance policy to the gang.
Trump has frequently spoken out against the gang – and about how many of its members are illegal immigrants.
“We have been removing MS-13. They’re monsters,” he said in July. “We’ve been removing MS-13 by the thousands during my administration.”
“Back in my country they would kill a lot but now they are killing here and it’s getting worse,” Marabella said.
“It’s horrible but thankfully President Trump has been doing a lot to arrest these individuals.”
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“I feel a lot of resentment for them for what they did. You can’t just kill kids. They should be in jail forever.
“I am sacred of them because it’s not just a couple in the gang – there are thousands.
“I miss my sons so much. God gives me strength but the grief never passes.”
*Marabella’s name has been changed to conceal her identity