Watch CBS News

Teen MS-13 member charged with strangling autistic woman to death in Aberdeen, police say

Teen MS-13 member charged with strangling autistic woman to death in Aberdeen, police say
Teen MS-13 member charged with strangling autistic woman to death in Aberdeen, police say 02:15

BALTIMORE -- A 17-year-old boy believed to be a member of the international gang MS-13 is accused of strangling a 20-year-old woman to death in Aberdeen last summer, police said. 

The suspect, who police say is an undocumented non-citizen from El Salvador, was tied to the death of Kayla Hamilton through DNA evidence. He was arrested in Edgewood early Sunday morning and is charged with first-degree murder. 

The suspect is also facing rape, robbery, and other charges.

Hamilton's family told detectives she was autistic and recently moved to Aberdeen with her 22-year-old boyfriend, police said.  

A picture of Kayla Hamilton shared by her family  Aberdeen Police

Officers responded to a cardiac arrest on July 27 at the unit block of E. Inca Street, where Hamilton was pronounced dead on the scene. 

 The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore determined her death to be a homicide by strangulation. 

Tammy Nobles, Hamilton's mother, said she hasn't been the same person since her daughter died.

"I'm her mother, I'm supposed to be there to protect her, but you can't protect your kids when they're adults," Nobles said. "But, I just feel responsible. I was supposed to keep her safe."

Lt. C. William Reiber said Hamilton's death impacted investigators, working around the clock to help bring the family closure.

"This was about making that arrest for Kayla, and so she just wasn't a number. That this meant something," Reiber said. "It meant something to be a part of it, I can tell you it meant a lot to me and our team here in Aberdeen."

But that closure is still in the works for Nobles. She doesn't think she'll ever understand why anyone would hurt her daughter.

"If you said a kind thing to Kayla, she would stick to you like glue. All she wanted was appreciation, acceptance, and someone to love her," Nobles said.

The suspect is being held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center. 

MS-13, also called Mara Salvatrucha, is believed to have been founded as a neighborhood street gang in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s by immigrants fleeing a civil war in El Salvador.

The gang is now a major international criminal enterprise, with tens of thousands of members in several Central American countries and many U.S. states, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.