Leniz “Diablita” Escobar, the Long Island woman convicted of luring four young men to their deaths at the hands of the MS-13 gang, is attempting to have her conviction overturned. Escobar’s lawyers argued in court that the prosecution failed to prove her motive in the grisly slayings, claiming that the jury unjustifiably assumed she intended to increase her standing within the gang. However, the federal judge presiding over the case, Joseph Bianco, expressed skepticism towards this argument.
During Escobar’s trial in April 2022, jurors were presented with evidence that she convinced other MS-13 members to carry out the killings by showing them social media pictures of the victims mocking the gang. Witnesses testified that Escobar smiled as the gang members brutally murdered the four men with machetes, even allegedly licking the blood off her lips. The defense argued that the jury could not establish a motive beyond a reasonable doubt.
Escobar’s lawyers also claimed that the prosecution failed to disclose evidence that could have aided her defense, including notes from her ex-boyfriend, Sergio Vladimir Segovia Pineda, regarding the rape of a woman with a similar nickname to Escobar’s. They argued that this evidence would have demonstrated that Escobar’s true motivation was fear, not ambition. However, the prosecution countered that Pineda was not a crucial witness, and there was no evidence to suggest that Escobar was aware of the alleged rape.
Judge Bianco is expected to make a ruling on Escobar’s motion at a later date. Escobar was convicted on murder and racketeering charges related to the April 2017 massacre, where the victims were lured under the pretense of smoking marijuana but were instead ambushed and hacked to death by MS-13 gang members. The bodies of Miguel Lopez, Justin Llivicura, Jefferson Villalobos, and Jose Tigre were found the next day, while the fifth intended victim, Elmer Alexander Arteaga Ruiz, managed to escape and testified against Escobar at trial.
MS-13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha, is a notoriously brutal gang founded by Central American immigrants in Los Angeles in the 1980s. It has since expanded its presence globally, including on Long Island.