Cops Called Him a Runaway. He Was in the 'Killing Fields'

ProPublica explores the murder of Miguel Garcia-Moran in Brentwood, NY
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2018 10:25 AM CDT
Updated Sep 30, 2018 3:00 PM CDT
Cops Called Him a Runaway. He Was in the 'Killing Fields'
In this Sept. 27, 2016, file photo, Abraham Chaparro holds a photograph of his murdered stepson, Miguel Garcia-Moran, outside his home in Brentwood, NY.   (AP Photo/Claudia Torrens, File)

Nearly two months after her 15-year-old brother Miguel Garcia-Moran vanished in Suffolk County, Long Island, his older sister Lady discovered she could access his Facebook account. What she discovered were 84 text and voice messages exchanged with Alexander, a classmate of Miguel's at Brentwood High who pushed him to come to the woods, alone, to smoke up. "That man Jairo"—who had attended Brentwood—"is going to treat you," Alexander wrote. Miguel agreed to go, and was never seen again. In a piece for ProPublica, Hannah Dreier examines his February 2016 disappearance and the 10 that followed it over the next two years, most if not all now believed to be tied to the MS-13 gang. She delves into the "inaction and inadequate procedures of the Suffolk County police": Most of the teens were classified as runaways, though there was no indication any of them fit that profile.

Only three of the department's 3,800 employees were certified to interpret Spanish, though most in the Latino-majority town of Brentwood spoke it as their first language. Detective Luis Perez wasn't one of them, though he did speak Spanish. Miguel's family took the Facebook messages to him, and he took the "unusual" step of having the family meet with Alexander at school; Alexander insisted Miguel never showed up that night. At one point, the family says his advice to them was: "If you're so worried, go pay a fortune teller to find Miguel." Dreier explains how the September 2016 murders of two US-born girls became national news and spurred police to begin searching the woods. One week after the murders, Miguel's body was found in what police have dubbed the MS-13 "killing fields," his bones covered in machete marks. Police still haven't solved Miguel's case—but Dreier may have. Read her full story here. (More Longform stories.)

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