Labor Day weekend in 2015 marked the end of the summer, and teens all over East Boston spent their last days of freedom hanging out with friends before school started that Tuesday.
Tragically, 15-year-old Wilson Martinez would never make it to school to start his sophomore year at East Boston High School.
The morning before school was to start Martinez’s body was found by a dog walker along the shoreline near the skating rink. He had been beaten and stabbed numerous times.
However, Martinez’s murder that year was only the tip of the iceberg, and the beginning of a string of murders of teens in the neighborhood that spanned over a year and shook the neighborhood to its core.
Two weeks after Martinez was killed, Irvin Depazm, 15, was fatally stabbed on Trenton Street. Then on Jan. 10, Christofer Perez-De la Cruz became the third teenager to be murdered in Eastie after he was shot and stabbed to death near 144 Falcon St. Then a fourth muder of an Eastie teen, Blanca Lainez in June 2016 followed, and then Luis Fernando Orellana Ruano who was stabbed to death at East Boston Stadium on Christmas Eve 2016.
In 2018 a voilent MS-13 member, Edwin Gonzalez, was sentenced in federal court in Boston to life in prison for racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of Martinez and Perez-De la Cruz but his lawyers recently appealed the conviction.
However, last week a federal appeals court upheld the life-without-parole sentence imposed on Gonzalez for his role in the two murders.
In a 30-page decision last Tuesday, Circuit Judge Bruce Selya for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District in Boston rejected Gonzalez’s appeal. of his life sentence. Gonzalez’s lawyers tried to argue that more leniency should be applied to the sentence because Gonzalez was only 20 at the time of the murders.
However, in his ruling Selya wrote, “The district court concluded that the grisly nature of the facts in this case warranted a life-without-parole sentence. Seen in the lurid light of the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the district court acted within the ambit of its discretion by imposing a life-without-parole sentence.”
Gonzalez, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV in 2018 after a multi-week trial. Gonzalez was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy. In addition, the jury found that Gonzalez’s racketeering activity on behalf of MS-13 included his participation in the Sept. 7, 2015 murder of Martinez and the Jan. 10, 2016 murder of Perez-De la Cruz.
According to prosecutors, Gonzalez and three others lured Martinez in a “catfishing” scheme and then brutally killed him at the beach.
Gonzalez and other defendants targeted the victim in the catfishing scheme by using a fake Facebook account to trick the victim into thinking he was talking to a girl. In reality, the Facebook account was being controlled by Gonzalez and other MS-13 members to lure suspected rivals so that the gang could murder them.
On the day of the murder, one of the other MS-13 members picked up Martinez on a scooter pretending to be a friend of the girl that Martinez was planning to meet for a date. Martinez was driven to Constitution Beach where Gonzalez and the other MS-13 members were waiting to kill him.
Gonzalez and the three other MS-13 members took turns attacking and stabbing the victim. Gonzalez and the others left the victim bleeding to death with approximately 33 sharp force injuries and numerous blunt force injuries where the assailants had punched, kicked, and struck the victim with rocks.
Following the murder Gonzalez and two others were promoted to “homeboy,” or full members of MS-13, as a reward for their participation in the murder.
Then on Jan. 10, 2016 Gonzalez and three other MS-13 members lured Perez-De la Cruz using the same ruse that was used on Martinez. Gonzalez and the others contacted the victim through social media and asked to meet on Falcon Street. Again, convinced that the victim was a gang rival, Gonzalez and others targeted him by pretending to be a girl on Facebook. Gonzalez then went to pick up the victim, pretending to be a relative of the girl that the victim was supposed to meet for a date. When Gonzalez arrived with the victim in Eastie, the MS-13 members attacked the victim. Three of the MS-13 members, including Gonzalez, were armed with large knives and stabbed the victim repeatedly, while the fourth MS-13 member fired multiple gunshots into the victim. Gonzalez and the other MS-13 members then ran away, leaving the teenager bleeding to death on a public street. The victim had approximately 48 sharp force injuries, multiple gunshot wounds, and multiple blunt force injuries.
One of the murderers was captured on tape stating that the “the dude [victim] was left completely destroyed” and “Sangriento [Gonzalez] whacked the guy’s hands with a machete.” The day after the murder, Gonzalez himself was captured on tape admitting to the murder and discussing further violence against potential rivals, stating, “we’re going to leave all of them chopped in pieces.”
The other three MS-13 members who committed the January 2016 murder with Gonzalez—Edwin Diaz, Jairo Perez, and Rigoberto Mejia were also charged in connection with this investigation and pleaded guilty before trial. Diaz and Perez were each sentenced to 35 years in prison, while Mejia received 27.5 years in prison