'Just kill her': Families of 'little devil' Leniz Escobar's 2017 murder victims demand death penalty
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Over half a decade after their brutal murders, the families of Michael Lopez, Justin Llivicura, Jorge Tigre, and Jefferson Villalobos were given some sense of closure. On April 11, 2022, a jury found Leniz Escobar guilty on all counts of the April 2017 Long Island massacre of the four. However, the families aren't too happy with the fact Escobar won't be eligible for the death penalty.
A member of the MS-13 street gang, Escobar's verdict does little to put a dent in the Salvadorian gang's rapid spread. Over the past few years, several gang members have been arrested for brutal violence, mainly in and around New York City. In May 2020, 10 gang members were arrested for brutally beating three people to death, while screaming "no one can stop us." It is just one of the many violent incidents the gang has perpetrated.
Escobar, also known as the "little devil", was accused of luring Lopez, Llivicura, Tigre, and Villalobos, to a secluded area of a long island park on April 12, 2017. Once there, the four were hacked to death by five others, while she reportedly witnessed the murders. As a result, she was slapped with federal murder and racketeering charges.
'Make her suffer like she made them suffer'
Her trial began on March 21, with many gruesome and bloody details coming to light. When Lopez sought her help shortly before being killed, "Escobar allegedly laughed and licked his blood off her lips," prosecutors said. Her defense argued that the witnesses were untrustworthy and that Escobar was not a member of MS-13. Despite those tactics, it took the jury just under three and a half hours to convict Escobar on all charges.
The news though wasn't met with joy. Since Escobar was just 17-years-old at the time of the murders, she cannot be sentenced to death under New York state law. At most, she faces life in prison, which is likely to be the sentence handed down. In fact, her defense attorney acknowledged as much when he told the press, "She faces a potential life sentence. As a matter of fact, if she had not been a juvenile at the time of the offense she could have faced the death penalty." The families of the victims though, want her to face the death sentence.
"Personally for me, just kill her," said Michael Lopez's cousin to The New York Post. Another said, "End her. Make her suffer like she made them suffer." "She has to pay the price, in this life or the next," noted Tigre’s uncle, Carlos Ullajuria. He added, "She deserves it because it’s her fault my family lost someone. The entire family — my mother, my sister — it was very hard for all of us." One unknown individual also slammed, "She lured them. That’s where I lose remorse. She was the backstabber, the double-crosser."
Escobar's family too mourned the verdict. "She was a young girl who had a difficult life, not having a father, not having a mother, abused physically, mentally," noted Sindy Escobar, a relative. She added, "She was a very smart girl who had a bright future." However, thanks to her actions, that bright future now is all but gone, replaced by a life in jail.