Latest in the Baltimore MS-13 Cases

How many more criminal charges do I have to ask for before Baltimore admits it has a problem?

By Andrew R. Arthur on September 29, 2020

In a Thursday post captioned "If a Girl Dies in the Forest, Does Anyone Other than Me Care? Gabriela Alejandra Gonzalez Ardon, MS-13, and the odd lack of coverage — and outrage", I reported on a May 29 murder that occurred in rural Baltimore County, Md., purportedly by "MS-13 affiliates". Eight days after that killing, the suspects in that case allegedly tried to murder a 17-year-old male whom they had targeted for gang recruitment, elsewhere in the county. A suspect, Carlos Eduardo Diaz, was arrested in an attack on that male's girlfriend, which occurred at about the same time in Baltimore City. I now have the charges in that case, and it just keeps getting worse.

The suspects in Ardon's murder are Wilson Art Constanza-Galdomez, Edys O. Valenzuella-Rodriguez, Wualter Hernandez-Orellana, Jonathan Pesquera, and Asael Ezequie Gonzalez-Merlos. Each was charged by a grand jury with two counts of murder in the first degree (one as part of a conspiracy), assault in the first degree, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit first degree assault, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

My colleague Marguerite Telford reported on September 15 that ICE has lodged detainers on three of them: Salvadoran nationals Hernandez-Orellana (identified by the agency as "Wualter Orellana-Hernandez") and Constanza-Galdomez, and Honduran national Pesquera (identified by ICE as "Jonathan J. Pesquera-Puerto").

All three were unlawfully present, and all entered the United States as minors. ICE had previously placed detainers on Constanza-Galdomez and Hernandez-Orellana following prior criminal arrests, only to have those aliens released by local authorities.

Police have stated that the five knew Ardon, according to the Baltimore Sun, "and that the suspects may have targeted her and lured her to the park where she was killed because they believed her to be involved with a rival gang."

The same suspects were in Baltimore County custody at the time of that indictment, charged with attempting to kill a 17-year-old male (whose name I will not disclose to protect him) and related charges, as I explained in Thursday's post. He alleged that members of MS-13 had been attempting to recruit him into the gang since December. His rejection of those recruitment attempts was the apparent reason for the attack on June 6.

I discussed that incident in a September 4 post. According to charging documents in that case, at the time of or before that attack, the male victim's 17-year-old girlfriend "was taken to a separate location by 2 other known subjects." Again, I will withhold her name for her safety.

Her case, however, picks up in the charging documents for Diaz. She was found behind the 4500 block of Lombard Street in Baltimore City at 9:00 PM on June 6 — more than five miles from where the alleged attack on the male occurred, and shortly after he called the police.

But she was not found because police were looking for her. Rather, there was a report from a CSX engineer that a female was lying next to nearby train tracks, to which Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers responded at 8:45. They found 18-year-old Michelle Elizabeth Tenezaca with multiple stab wounds. She was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

The responding officers also found the 17-year-old female victim "laying in the bushes off to the side of the railroad tracks", yards away from Tenezaca. She was "suffering from multiple stab wounds and laceration wounds to her body and torso", near a pair of black Nikes and a bloody shirt. The female victim was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital in critical condition. Tenezaca, it was soon determined, was her sister.

Footage from closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) — a common sight in Baltimore City — showed the female victim "walking away with two Hispanic males", one of whom was identified in a photo array as the-then 16-year-old Diaz (he has since turned 17). For reasons that are unclear, he was arrested by Baltimore County Police (BCoPD) officers in Baltimore City on June 11 (the city and county are separate jurisdictions), taken to BCoPD headquarters, and then sent to BPD headquarters.

At Central Booking, he was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first degree assault, carrying a dangerous weapon (a knife), and carrying a dangerous weapon with the intent to cause injury in an unlawful manner. The first charge carries a sentence of life imprisonment.

This all raises several questions. Who killed Tenezaca? Was there CCTV footage of her, or was she already dead (or dying) when the 17-year-old female victim was taken to the railroad tracks behind the 4500 block of Lombard Street?

Who was the other Hispanic male seen walking with the female victim? Was he one of the five in custody, or somebody else?

Why was Diaz first taken to BCoPD headquarters? Was he suspected of being one of the attackers of the male victim (charges state that attack occurred in Baltimore County)? He was arrested on the same day as Gonzalez-Merlos and Constanza-Galdomez, and in fact at the same city address as Gonzalez-Merlos.

And, if the suspects attempted to kill the male victim for resisting MS-13 gang recruitment, why were Tenezaca and her sister attacked?

There is nothing in the charging documents linking Diaz with MS-13. But needless to say the facts as alleged in the charges are suspicious.

Given all of the facts in the four crimes (the murder of Ardon, the death of Tenezaca, and the two attempted murders), it would appear that Baltimore has a serious MS-13 problem.

As Jonathan Lenzner, the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for Maryland, has explained: "Maryland does unfortunately have a very high concentration of MS-13 gang members." So much so that it is "one of the first states in the country" where the FBI has "set up a tip line for residents to anonymously report suspected activity": 1-866-STP-MS13 (787-6713).

Residents of neighboring Anne Arundel County (home of the State Capitol and the Naval Academy) are encouraged to call its police department's anonymous tip line at 410-222-4700 if they see signs of gang activity. Where are BPD and BCoPD in responding to the issue?

Crime is so (regrettably) ubiquitous in Baltimore City that perhaps murders and stabbings get lost in the din, but what about Baltimore County? In May, it was trumpeting the fact that crime there is down 18 percent from last year (when there were 50 murders). If MS-13 is on the rise, how long will that touted decline last? The gang is "violent" and "known to operate in secrecy". It really doesn't care about boundaries — just power.

I hope that more arrests are coming, and that justice will be served. As I alluded to in Thursday's post, however, the Baltimore county executive's response to questions about MS-13 have been milquetoast, to be generous (blasé and evasive, to be blunt). You can't prevent crime until you admit that you have a problem with it. How many more copies of criminal charges am I going to have to request before Baltimore admits it has a problem with MS-13?

Topics: Maryland, Gangs