NEW YORK - The FBI announced Wednesday that they have added Juan Elias Garcia - a man wanted for the execution-style murders of a 19-year-old New York woman and her 2-year-old son - to the agency's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list.
"Garcia's callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son," said George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of the agency's New York Field Office. "His appointment to the FBI's Top Ten list illustrates not only the seriousness of his crimes but our commitment to seeking justice for his victims."
Vanessa Argueta, 19, and her 2-year-old son were shot to death on February 4, 2010 in Central Islip, N.Y.
Garcia, who was only 17 when the crime took place, is alleged to be a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha gang, known as MS-13, and is believed to be hiding in El Salvador, authorities said Wednesday.
"MS-13 is the most violent gang here of any of the street gangs," said Special Agent Reynaldo Tariche, who investigated the case with other members of the FBI's Long Island Gang Task Force. While gang-related murders are not uncommon on Long Island, "the execution of a 2-year-old and his mother is a new low even for MS-13," Tariche noted.
Authorities say Garcia had a romantic relationship with Argueta. Authorities say Argueta had ties to two of MS-13's rival gangs and when Argueta and Garcia had a falling out, members of the rival gang allegedly threatened Garcia.
When Garcia relayed that he was threatened to his fellow MS-13 gang members, it was decided to retaliate against Argueta.
"They were going to kill her for disrespecting the gang," said Special Agent James Lopez, also a member of the task force. According to gang code, Lopez explained, "it is unacceptable for MS-13 members to have girls they associate with be involved with rival gang members."
"Garcia was an enthusiastic murderer," Tariche said. "He was the reason why this happened. He was the one who decided to get the gang involved. It wasn't about a boyfriend-girlfriend dispute. This was about disrespecting the gang. And the penalty for that is death."
The FBI is offering reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to the arrest of Garcia.
Authorities say Garcia should be considered armed and dangerous. He is described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 125 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. He is known to speak Spanish and English.
His two co-conspirators in the murders of Argueta and her child have been convicted of murder and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth defendant charged in connection with the murders has been sentenced to three life terms, plus 60 years.