U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a 14-year-old girl’s murder could have been avoided if the local police in Maryland had not ignored a deportation hold it had on the two illegal immigrant teenage boys accused of murdering her.
Fox 5 DC reports that 16-year-old Josue Rafael Fuentes-Ponce and 17-year-old Joel Ernesto Escobar – both Salvadoran nationals who police say were part of MS-13 – had been arrested previously in Prince George’s County on attempted murder and gang-related charges.
Instead of notifying ICE, which had a deportation detainer for the suspects, police released them.
“These individuals had demonstrated violent criminal behavior before, and because they were released in spite of the lawful detainer, they were afforded an opportunity to take a life,” said ICE Baltimore Field Office Director Diane Witte in a statement.
The suspects along with 14-year-old Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi are accused of murdering 14-year-old Ariana Funes-Diaz, who was found dead in a creek last week. Autopsy results revealed Funes-Diaz died of blunt force trauma.
A Maryland Department of Juvenile Services spokesman said it’s rare for Maryland state juvenile facilities to be notified of ICE detainers. No word on why the teens were released.
KKTV reports that Fuentes arrived in the U.S. in 2015 as part of a family unit in Texas and was paroled into the U.S. pending the outcome of an immigration case. An immigration judge ordered Fuentes removed in absentia on March 16, 2017.
“Escobar was found by immigration officials to be an unlawfully present unaccompanied juvenile on Aug. 23, 2016, near McAllen, Texas. Escobar was transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and later released to a family member in the Washington, D.C. area,” KKTV reported.