HOUSTON, Texas -- Four alleged MS-13 gang members are in jail, charged with murdering a man who was cooperating with police, and investigators say their arrests are part of a bigger operation targeting the gang.
Authorities say 19-year-old Marlon Miranda, 22-year-old Wilson Ventura-Mejia, 33-year-old Miguel Aguilar-Ochoa, and 18-year-old Carlos Elias Henriquez-Torres are charged in the June 6 murder of Victor Castro Martinez.
According to court records, the four suspects took turns hacking the 25-year-old victim to death with a machete.
"Machetes, that's one of their weapons of choice, machetes and guns, and that's only if they want you to die quickly," said Mark Stephens, a former undercover Houston police officer with 30 years experience in law enforcement. "I think what they did was lure him to his death."
During a probable cause hearing August 23, it was revealed the victim, a MS-13 gang member himself, was cooperating with police.
According to court records, on June 6, he contacted police to tell them he was meeting with MS-13 gang members. Police provided him a recording device and watched him as he left his southwest Houston apartment with the suspects.
At 10:13 p.m., the victim texted his location to an officer: 7600 Long Drive, next to Cullinan Park. There was no more communication.
The next morning, police found Martinez's bloodied body in the park with their recording device was still in his pocket. They determined he died within 30 minutes of his text.
Investigators believe the victim was murdered because the suspects thought he was working with a rival gang.
A prosecutor told the hearing officer that the suspects may be tied to seven other murders.
Among MS-13, any sign of disloyalty is a death sentence, Stephens said.
"The only way you leave MS-13 is in a body bag," he said.
The state has requested all the defendants be separated from each other while in jail.
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Authorities say Houston MS-13 gang members took turns hacking man to death with machete