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FBI most wanted fugitive arrested in murder of NY mother, toddler

Juan Elias Garcia, an alleged member of the MS-13 gang, is seen in an undated picture released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Juan Elias Garcia, an alleged member of the MS-13 gang, is seen in an undated picture released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An accused gang member put on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list this week was arrested on Friday for his role in the 2010 killing of his girlfriend and her toddler son, federal authorities said.

Juan Elias "Cruzito" Garcia, 21, a reputed member of the murderous international gang known as MS-13, was taken into custody when he voluntarily returned to the United States to face criminal prosecution, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a press release.

Garcia, who has ties to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama, is accused in the execution-style shooting of the mother and child in Central Islip, New York, authorities said.

His surrender on Friday - just two days after being put on the most wanted list - was the result of a coordinated effort between Nicaraguan authorities and U.S. law enforcement, which sent aircraft to bring Garcia to New York, the FBI said.

Victims in the double murder were Garcia's girlfriend Vanessa Argueta, 19, and her son, Diego Torres, 2.

After a lovers' quarrel, Garcia was threatened by rival gang members, who he said used information that he believed was provided by Argueta, the FBI said.

Garcia and two fellow gang members got permission from their leader to retaliate against the woman. She and her son were shot dead after being lured to a wooded area in February 2010, the FBI said.

When the boy saw his mother killed, he started crying and was hit by a bullet that knocked him down, the FBI said.

"Torres got back up and clutched onto Garcia's leg," when a second shot was fired, striking the boy in the head and killing him, the FBI said.

Fellow accused gang members Adalberto Ariel Guzman and Rene Mendez Mejia are awaiting sentencing after Mejia pleaded guilty to the murders and Guzman was found guilty at trial, the FBI said.

Their reputed gang leader, Heriberto Martinez, has been sentenced to three life terms, plus 60 years, in prison for multiple convictions that include murder, racketeering and conspiracy, the FBI said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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