ROCKVILLE — A Montgomery County judge sentenced MS-13 gang member Juan Gutierrez-Vazquez, age 17, to 40 years in prison Feb. 8 for his role in a June 2016 murder that took place in a Gaithersburg park.
“40 years behind bars is a long time for him to think about the crime he has committed but not nearly as long as a lifetime of sorrow that Berta, the mom of Cristian Villagran-Morales has to think about the loss of her son,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney.
Gutierrez-Vazquez, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, had just turned 16 in June 2016 when he joined three other members and associates of Mara Salvatrucha, otherwise known as MS-13, at Gaithersburg’s Malcolm King Park, where they murdered Christian Villagran-Morales.
Prosecutors said MS-13 members from whom Villagran-Morales had bought marijuana mistook him for a rival gang member after the transaction when he flashed a rival gang’s signs.
According to state’s attorney Robert Hill, Vazquez was privy to and took part in plans to kill Villagran-Morales, who went into the woods at Malcolm King Park after Vanesa Alvarado, 20, lured him there with the promise of sex and drugs. Once there, waiting MS-13 members ambushed Villagran-Morales, stabbing him more than 150 times, with Vazequez stabbing him twice in the head. Alvarado, who also received a 40-year prison term, was sentenced in May.
While Vazquez’s attorney Mary Seigfried said her client’s role was primarily to serve as a lookout, and stabbed Villagran-Morales only after peer pressure from fellow gang members, Hill argued Vasquez knew about the plans of the murder long in advance and could have easily avoided taking part.
Seigfreid asked Judge Ann Albright for a 20-year sentence, arguing in court that Vazquez had just turned 16 at the time of the murder and had just arrived from El Salvador where he grew up without much schooling or support. Albright, however, rejected Seigfreid’s explanations and said Vazquez should be held to account for the murder.
Speaking after the sentencing, Hill said he has noticed a trend in the recent wave of gang-related murders that the suspects are getting younger.
“This young man was just 16 years old for two weeks, he was 15 shortly before the murder, so yes the trend is, at least from what we’ve observed is as they get older, they tend to fall out of the gang in their late 20s and their early 30s, they tend to do other things,” Hill said.