THE BRONX (PIX11) — Leandra Feliz’s life ended the same night her 15-year-old son, Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, was viciously knifed to death on a Bronx street.
“That night two of us died, my son and I,” Feliz said Friday during her victim impact statement at the sentencing of the Bronx gang leaders convicted of murder in the June 2018 attack.
Diego Suero, the leader of the Los Sures set of the Trinitarios gang, and his No. 2, Frederick Then, were each sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison during the proceeding at the Bronx Hall of Justice.
Feliz, dressed in a black shirt with her son’s face on it, was calm and composed as she told the court about her heartbreaking loss and the constant suffering since the boy’s brutal murder. She said justice to her would be each defendant getting 300 years in prison.
“His dreams were destroyed by this murderous gang,” she said.
“He’s not going to come back from the grave,” Feliz added after the proceeding.
In July, a jury found Suero, 33, and Then, 24, guilty of murder in connection to the slaying. After a lengthy trial, the jury deliberated for just over 24 hours before handing down the verdict.
Junior was slain by a group of Trinitarios gang members at the corner of 183rd Street and Bathgate Avenue in Tremont. The teen was dragged out of a bodega and onto the street, where he was stabbed with a knife and machete in a case of mistaken identity, authorities said.
Suero was not at the scene of the crime, but Then was seen on video outside the bodega making sure his boss’ mission was completed, prosecutors said. The defense had argued there was never any intent to kill Junior and Alvarez’s actions cost Junior his life.
“He is just as responsible as if he plunged that knife into the neck of (Junior),” Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dolan said.
Before handing down his sentence, the judge said Junior was heartlessly and brutally attacked and told Suero “they carried out your order to kill.”
Suero, before declining to make a statement, appeared to wipe a tear from his eye. Then, garbed in orange prison pants and matching gloves, also declined to speak. But his attorney, Larry Sheehan, told the court Then lost his mom when he was 9 and was homeless by 19. Suero took him in and the two lived together for several months.
“That was the start of his downfall,” Sheehan said.
During the trial, former probationary gang member Kevin Alvarez, who beat and hauled the helpless boy out of the store, testified that Suero, nicknamed “Psycho,” hosted a gathering at his home and put a “357” kill order on rival Sunset members of the Triniatarios. The crew armed themselves with machetes and knives, piled into four cars, fueled up at a gas station, and went hunting for their enemies, when they encountered Junior walking on the street, according to officials and surveillance video.
Members of the Trinitarios were accused of threatening prosecutors and Alvarez during the murder trial, authorities said. Dolan had told the court she was confronted by a young, Dominican man on her way to the courthouse one morning before her security detail stepped in to handle the situation.
“He got in my face, but didn’t say anything,” Dolan said at the time.
Alvarez made a deal with the state in 2019. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy and was let off with time served in exchange for his testimony.
Five additional gang members were previously convicted in connection with Junior’s death during a separate trial in 2019. They are serving varying prison sentences for their roles in the attack.
There are still six more defendants in the case who are facing murder charges, according to a spokeswoman for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
“The message here is that we have to do everything we can to protect our youth,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said after the sentencing. “This is where it ends.”