It only took Daniel Alejandro Alvarado Cuellar flashing a hand sign of the 18th Street gang for rivals to begin plotting his murder.
Baltimore County detectives say members of MS-13 stalked the 21-year-old home from the laundromat in July and stabbed him to death — one killer allegedly armed with a machete-style knife — outside his apartment in Towson. Investigators attributed the killing to a war between two Latino street gangs, the 18th Street and MS-13.
“The victim had been seen making a hand gesture that was believed to be indicative of an affiliation with the 18th Street,” detectives wrote in charging documents.
On Tuesday, police announced they had arrested and charged seven MS-13 members with murdering Cuellar. He becomes the latest victim of the feuding gangs.
Last week, a federal judge in Baltimore sentenced an MS-13 gang member from Montgomery County to 30 years in prison for racketeering and stabbing to death a suspected 18th Street member four years ago. According to federal prosecutors, one principal rule of MS-13 is that its members must kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
Last April, a federal judge in Greenbelt sentenced another MS-13 member, a 26-year-old from Gaithersburg, to 35 years in prison for his role in the stabbing death of an 18th Street rival three years ago. The suburbs of D.C. have suffered some of the worst regional violence carried out by these gangs. The leaders recruit Latino immigrants and their children.
In Towson, the alleged MS-13 killers followed Cuellar to the Sudsville laundromat on Loch Raven Boulevard late on July 30.
“Members of the above group watched from different areas of darkness and individually walked past the victim,” detectives wrote.
Half of the pack left to wait for Cuellar at his home, prosecutors allege. Shortly before 1 a.m., he returned home and was attacked. He died at the scene.
Detectives traced Cuellar back to the laundromat and recovered surveillance footage that showed him being watched and followed. They said those stalking Cuellar traveled in a white 2008 Dodge Caliber. Nearly two weeks later, police stopped the car in Mississippi and arrested the occupants. Detectives wrote that they matched the occupants to those seen on the video cameras.
The seven charged with murder are Jonathan Escobar-Hernandez, 20, Marlon Leonardo Fabian-Flores, 20, Edwin Edgardo Garcia-Martir, 18, Hugo Portillo-Chavez, 31, Jose Fausto Rivera-Coreas, 19, Odaliz Rosas-Yanez, 20, and Leonel Alexander Velasquez-Hernadez, 16. Velasquez-Hernadez is charged as an adult.
Defense attorney Natalie Finegar said she has not had a chance to meet her client, Fabian-Flores. Justin Michael Hollimon, who is representing Garcia-Martir, declined to comment.
The public defender’s office did not respond to a request for comment on behalf of the other defendants.