Two years after a body was discovered in the Massapequa Preserve, the Nassau County Police Department has recovered a second body in the wooded area. Police say that, as with the first discovery, the individual found is suspected to be one of about a dozen people murdered by MS-13 gang members in 2016 and 2017.
Nassau Police Homicide Detective Lieutenant Stephen Fitzpatrick said at a press conference following the gruesome discovery that the body was buried in a shallow grave in the preserve about 100 to 150 feet from where the remains of Julio Cesar Espantzay, 18, was discovered in March 2017. It is estimated that the body has been there for the last two years as it has significantly deteriorated.
“As we developed enough information to arrest the suspects involved with the first homicide here, information started being obtained in these investigations that led us to believe that there was a second person here in the preserve,” said Fitzpatrick. “As many people in this community have seen, we’ve been here multiple, multiple times.”
Fitzpatrick said the police have searched the area numerous times over the last few years to see if they could find the body, twice digging in the area “extensively” and raking about an acre of land to see if they could discover the body. On the afternoon of Friday, May 24, the police found an indentation in the ground off a path that they’ve searched before and dug up the body in a shallow grave.
On Monday, June 3, the police department confirmed that the body found was Bryan Steven Cho Lemus, 18. According to police, Lemus went missing on Aug. 24 and that he associated with gang members. He knew his attackers, police said, and was lured to the preserve where he was killed.
One day after the body was identified, Stanley Gerson Juarez, 22, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The MS-13 member was already serving time for a 2016 attack in Hempstead.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran thanked the police at the May 25 press conference, as well as the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Homeland Security Investigators for their help in investigating these situations.
“I have to give a special thanks to detectives of our homicide squad who never give up on an old case,” said Curran. “They are relentless and they come back and come back until they find what it is they are looking for.”
Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder was also present at the press conference and said that police made 335 MS-13 arrests during the investigation and believes that at this time, all the homicide victims involved have been recovered.
“I want the people in the Massapequa area and all of Nassau County to know that the parks are safe,” Ryder said. “But remember, if you see something, say something. If something is suspicious, let us know. At night, if you see someone walking into the woods, call 911. We’ll come out and do the investigation.”
At a press conference held by the Nassau Police Benevolent Association the next day, Legislator James Kennedy, who lives in Massapequa, thanked the police for their diligence in fighting MS-13 and other violent gangs.
“As a member of the Nassau County Legislature, along with my colleagues, we will do everything in our power to provide law enforcement with the resources they need to catch the cowards responsible for this and bring them to justice,” said Kennedy. “We’re battling something in MS-13 that is terrorizing communities across Nassau and Suffolk counties. We need to take a firm stand and get all levels of law enforcement and of our communities to work together and rid this terrible scourge on Long Island.”
Prior to the second body’s discovery, Kennedy said to the Observer that he has worked with the commissioner to get cameras set up in the preserve after people approached him about being scared to enter the area.
“I sat down with Commissioner Ryder at that time and we got cameras set up,” said Kennedy. “Since that time, crime has gone down 53 percent in the preserve.”
Kennedy, as well as the Police Benevolent Association and other members of government, are calling on the department to hire more detectives to combat gang violence such as crimes committed by MS-13.