A federal judge today sentenced Henri "Perverso" Salvador Gutierrez to life in prison for the murders of Luis Fernando Orellana Ruano, 18, at Memorial Stadium in East Boston in December, 2016 and Herson Rivas, 17, in a Lynn park two years later.
Salvador, now 23, was not among the dozens of MS-13 members arrested in a federal and local sweep in January, 2016, after the murders of four other teens. Although he was initially tagged as a possible suspect in Orellana Ruano's murder, it was not until he boasted of the crime to another inmate while locked up two years later on a gun charge that investigators were able to uncover enough evidence to charge him with both murders.
In 2017, ICE picked up Salvador for deportation because of prior convictions as a young MS-13 member even before the East Boston murder - which at that point he had yet to be charged with - but he and his lawyer convinced an immigration judge that he was not an MS-13 member and that the earlier convictions had been youthful mistakes and that he was now on the straight and narrow. The judge released him with " lawful permanent residence status."
A month after his release, he now admits, he joined other MS-13 members in killing Rivas so brutally the medical examiner had to use two pages to describe all the teen's fatal injuries; gang members stood around the teen, taking turns stabbing him repeatedly; Salvador watched as their victim stopped struggling as he died under the repeated stabs.
According to a sentencing recommendation by the US Attorney's office, Orellana Ruano's murder, shortly before 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, was equally brutal.
The victim had at least a dozen sharp force wounds consistent with a stabbing, with significant injuries to the neck, chest, and back. His throat appeared to have been slashed, and he had multiple incised wounds to the neck and multiple stab wounds to the chest.
They added that the neck slash wounds were 13 cm - about 5 inches long:
Given the width of the human neck, incised wounds over 13 centimeters long across both the posterior and anterior neck (in addition to multiple stab wounds to the chest and back) leave little doubt that Salvador was not just trying to kill the victim, but he also wanted to do so with extreme atrocity and cruelty, such as by slashing the victim’s throat. The fact that Salvador committed this brutal, appalling murder to further the objectives of a violent gang like MS-13—and that he did so in a public soccer stadium in Boston on Christmas Eve—only confirms the horrific nature of this crime.
Despite the major dent in their ranks due to the arrests 11 months earlier, BPD detectives immediately began looking at connections to MS-13, which was known for its particularly brutal murders - often done to advance up the gang ranks.
State authorities interviewed Salvador as part of their investigation, but Salvador denied any involvement in the murder. Ultimately, law enforcement was unable to develop sufficient evidence to charge anyone with this murder. The murder of Ruano remained unsolved/uncharged for a number of years.
After the 2018 murder, authorities looking into the Lynn murder began trying again to connect him Orellana Ruano's murder. Salvador was in a local jail on a gun charge when the FBI had him put in a cell with a "cooperating witness" - another MS-13 member who had decided to help the feds, in this case by wearing a wire, in exchange for sentencing considerations, prosecutors say.
Thinking he was talking to a compatriot, Salvador opened up and not only admitted - and bragged about - his role in the East Boston murder, he wouldn't shut up. He spilled "significant details" that only the killer would know, such as that the teen was left with his pants down and his shirt up, because after he murdered him, he wanted to check for any "8" tattoos that would confirm the kid was a member of the rival 18th Street Gang (Orellana-Ruano did not have any such tattoos).
On the recording, Salvador confirmed the identity of the victim he killed at the Memorial Stadium near the East Boston Airport, referring to the victim by his nickname of "Ardilla," which is Spanish for squirrel. [The investigation revealed that at some point, Ruano had a long ponytail down his back with a blond highlight, which apparently made gang members think he looked like a squirrel.]
As he kept talking, Salvador got angry at another MS-13 member he felt was taking too much credit for the murder - and said he didn't care that he murdered the "punk" even though he knew another MS-13 sub-gang had already expressed their desire to kill him as an alleged member of the rival 18th Street Gang, and stepping on another sub-gang's murder turf was a gang no-no.
The crimes were so horrific, prosecutors wrote, they were recommending life in prison, something they rarely do when a defendant pleads guilty, as Salvador did last June.
It is not, however, an unfair or unduly harsh recommendation. To the contrary, each of Salvador's murders would have independently led to a guideline sentence of life in prison and the facts would have justified that sentence. Certainly, when the two murders are viewed in combination, anything less than a guideline sentence—especially given the aggravating factors present in this case—would be insufficient to further the goals of sentencing. Salvador brutally killed two teenagers. He bragged about it on tape in a way that showed little remorse for his crimes. Far from it, the recording showed that the murders were actually a source of pride (and amusement). His deplorable conduct while in pretrial custody only further confirms the fact that he is unable to live within the bounds of the law. Through his actions, which include the taking of two innocent lives, Salvador has earned a sentence of life in prison, which is the sentence the Court should impose.
Salvador's attorney acknowledged Salvador's role in the two murders - his client had, after all, pleaded guilty to them - but urged the judge to look beyond that, at what Salvador could become and sentence him to roughly 33 years. He started his sentencing recommendation with a quote: "Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done."
The worst thing Salvador has done is horrible: he took part in ending the lives of two men and permanently deprived their families of those they loved. It is difficult to see Salvador as anything but those actions. But he is more than that, and because he is not the irredeemable monster his crimes portend there are other viable and defensible options before this Court in lieu of sending Salvador to prison for life.
He said MS-13 was nowhere near as evil or centrally controlled as the feds kept saying and even within the local sub-gangs, Salvador was no leader and did nothing to convince others to join in the Lynn murder. The Sykos group that carried out Rivas's murder was hardly a "gang" - it didn't even collect dues, he wrote.
Even the decision to kill Rivas, arguably the only significant thing the Sykos Locos clique perpetrated, was not “greenlighted” by anyone in El Salvador, and nowhere within the government’s discovery is there evidence to the contrary. That unfortunate decision was entirely made and carried out by the group’s members, and any rumors that MS-13 Central was going to retaliate because the killing had not been ordered or pre-approved by “leadership,” something that has been presented as one the enterprise’s rules, did not materialize into reality.
He then compared the group to Red Sox "superfans:"
Like Boston Red Sox superfans, the Sykos Locos clique certainly had an all- encompassing "wannabee" attraction to MS-13 and emulated what they understood to be the stereotypical lifestyle, displaying common tattoos and indulging in an affinity for, inter alia, Chicago Bulls caps (presumably on the days they are allowed to wear red).5 Salvador willingly took part in this cosplay, presenting himself as a bona fide member of MS-13 by his appearance and mannerisms, displaying the tattoos and posing for photographs acting out the "thug" lifestyle. But he did that to get along and be accepted by the others, a desire that motivated him to take part in all of the group's activities, including the Rivas murder (which he initially did not support, believing it to be unnecessary, but subsequently participated in willingly and voluntarily). The desire for acceptance is also what drove him to participate in the Ruano murder along with two other men associated with a different clique.
What about all the boasting, the laughing, captured on tape in jail?
Jailhouse boasting is not uncommon, and the presence of puffery between a young inmate trying to impress an intimidating, older MS-13 member with a history of violence should not be surprising.
US District Court Judge Mark Wolf sided with prosecutors and ordered Salvador put behind bars for the rest of his life.
Prosecution sentencing recommendation (1.5M PDF).
Defense sentencing recommendation (312k PDF).