Stabbing victim had staved off pressure to join gangs, officers say
Monday, July 26, 2010
With no school scheduled the next day, and no clue he was about to be kidnapped and killed, Dennys Guzman-Saenz walked from his home in Langley Park to a nearby bus stop. It was just after 7 p.m. The baby-faced teen, having just turned 15, was on his way to visit a friend.
"He could have been anyone's child," Montgomery County Detective Larry Haley said Saturday. "This kid had never really done anything wrong."
More than a year later, 11 suspects have pleaded guilty in the case, the latest two during hearings last week. Guzman-Saenz was abducted, stabbed more than 60 times as he begged for his life and dumped into a creek in Gaithersburg.
Montgomery prosecutors called it the most disturbing gang killing they have ever seen -- one made all the more tragic because the victim had staved off pressure to join that lifestyle.
"We have absolutely no information that he was a gang member," said Jeffrey Wennar, an assistant state's attorney in the county's gang prosecution unit who handled the case.
A freshman at High Point High School, Guzman-Saenz stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds and was a fleet midfielder on the soccer field. He lived with his mother and two sisters. Friends called him "Chino," owing to his Asian-looking features.
The night of Jan. 18, 2009, he stood under 34-degree skies at a 14th Avenue bus stop, wearing a North Face jacket. The bus didn't arrive. He called a relative to arrange for another family member to swing by and take him to his friend's.
Instead, a blue Honda Accord carrying five members of the 18th Street gang spotted him and pulled up. As the recent plea hearings made clear, the gang members mistakenly thought he was a member of a rival gang, MS-13. Two of them got out of the car, attacked him and dragged him into the back seat. They drove into Montgomery, stabbed him in the car, arrived at a park, kept stabbing him and tossed him into the frigid water.
Early on in the case, detectives studied Guzman-Saenz's MySpace postings, looking for anyone with whom he'd had a beef. Instead they found the young man grousing about his mother keeping him on a tight leash.
Haley spoke to officers in Prince George's County who knew Guzman-Saenz and said he was headed down the right path, despite being surrounded by MS-13 members in his neighborhood.
"Did he know gang members? Yes. He couldn't not know them," Haley said.
Police found no indication that he had joined MS-13, which generally involves being beaten by other members as part of the initiation. "He hadn't been jumped in, and it was not like he wasn't getting pressure," Haley said.