MS-13 member from El Salvador gets life in prison for Colorado murders

A 31-year-old member of the MS-13 gang from El Salvador has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for his roles in two murders, an attempted murder and an apartment shooting in Colorado, judicial officials announced — part of broader efforts to crack down on transnational criminal groups trying to gain a foothold in metro Denver.

After a four-week trial, Mauricio Alvarado-Vasquez was convicted and sentenced in state court in July to life in prison without parole, 18th Judicial District officials confirmed Friday morning.

Citing “security concerns” and worries about a potential for witness intimidation, law enforcement officials did not publicize this and more than a dozen other cases against MS-13 members who committed multiple crimes around metro Denver in 2019 and 2020 until this week, judicial district spokesman Eric Ross said.

Alvarado-Vasquez was convicted of the Sept. 8, 2019, murder of Vicky DeDios, 46, whose body was left on the floor of a burning blue vehicle along Interstate 225. Aurora police detectives determined she’d been stabbed more than 20 times, and that she was targeted because the MS-13 gang perceived her as a rival gang member, officials said in a news release issued Thursday. She’d been at a bar and was lured out, rendered unconscious, then driven in her vehicle to a house, where she was stabbed, officials said.

Alvarado-Vasquez and co-defendant David Tobias-Carbajal — who was sentenced on April 21, also to life in prison without parole — then drove the vehicle with DeDios’ body in the back and parked it on the shoulder of Interstate 225, court records show. They purchased gasoline and a lighter and ignited the vehicle.

He also was convicted of murdering Carlos Ramirez-Rivera on Nov. 2, 2019, in Glendale, where police dispatched around 3 a.m. to a traffic crash found Ramirez-Rivera slumped dead on a seat with multiple bullet wounds in his chest and arms, officials said. Police investigators found he was targeted for his perceived involvement in a rival gang and followed after leaving a bar.

The trial also led to the conviction of Alvarado-Vasquez for conspiring with co-defendants on Facebook and a social messaging app in the attempted murder of Alexander Portillo, another perceived rival gang member. Investigators determined MS-13 members had been trying to figure out Portillo’s work schedule, employer and type of car he drove so that they could ambush and kill him, judicial district officials said in the news release. And Alvarado-Vasquez was linked to a shooting on Nov. 11, 2019, at an apartment complex on South Ironton Street, where six victims, not involved in gangs, suffered gunshot wounds and survived.

Prosecutors in Colorado’s 18th Judicial District, which covers Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, have charged more than a dozen defendants with MS-13 gang-related crimes between 2019 and 2020, officials said. Two other defendants face trials this month.

“This is one of the most violent and brutal gangs I have come across in my career as a prosecutor,” Arapahoe County District Attorney John Kellner said in the news release.

Kellner lauded state and federal law officials who worked for years on a case that “prevented this transnational criminal gang from gaining a foothold in our community.”

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