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Jury finds alleged MS 13 gang member guilty in connection to murder of Lynchburg teen

(WSET)

BEDFORD Co., Va. (WSET) -- A jury has decided that an alleged MS 13 gang member charged in connection to the brutal murder of a Lynchburg teenager is guilty.

They then recommended 55 years behind bars for his charges.

The Medical Examiner testified how 17-year-old Raymond Wood died on the night of March 27, 2017.

One of the six currently charged in his death has been on trial this week in Bedford County.

Before closing arguments on Friday, October 19 the Medical Examiner testified that Wood died from sharp force injuries to his neck, torso, and hand.

The ME also said Wood was alive when his hand was chopped off and his neck was slit.

"You can't run with the wolves, and then claim you don't know they hunt. This gang hunted this kid down, grabbed him, emptied his pockets, and slayed him, convict this man," said Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance during closing arguments.

Prosecutors said Wood was stabbed 29 times with a 17 inch knife that was presented as evidence during the third day of trial Thursday.

Victor Rodas was charged with first degree murder, robbery, abduction for pecuniary benefit, and participation in a criminal act in association with a criminal street gang.

He's been found guilty of first degree murder, gang participation, and abduction; he was found not guilty of robbery and abduction for pecuniary benefit.

"You have caused unimaginable pain and sorrow to our family," said Wood's mother Marjorie Stagno after the verdict.

Lisandro Antonio Posada-Vasquez, 25, pleaded guilty to capital murder, robbery, abduction for pecuniary benefit, and participation in a criminal act in association with a criminal street gang in September.

Rodas' trial started Tuesday, October 16 where the Commonwealth's Attorney and Defense opened with contradicting statements of how Rodas played a part in the abduction and murder of Wood.

Nance argued Rodas played a big part in plotting and planning Wood's death.

The defense argues that Rodas got caught up with the wrong person, alleged MS-13 gang member Josue Coreas Ventura.

Defense Attorney Matthew Pack argued that Rodas was not a member of MS-13 and that Ventura instructed Rodas to drive the car the night Wood was abducted and killed.

During testimonies over four days, a gang specialist, co-defendant, an admitted MS 13 gang member, and investigators testified about the night Wood and murdered and Rodas' actions before and after that night.

Evidence included text messages that showed Rodas' search for MS 13 murders in New York, testimony from a special agent who said Rodas admitted he had ties to the MS 13 gang in El Salvador where he lived until he was about 14-15 years old, and testimony from a co-defendant who said Rodas was driving and dropped the group off on Roaring Run Road where they took turns slashing Wood with a knife.

Wood was found dead in the 1700 block of Roaring Run Road in Bedford County on March 27, 2017.

The co-defendant who testified explained that he met with five other co-defendants the evening of Wood's death; one of them, who is an alleged MS 13 gang member with high rank, showed the group a knife, telling them it was going to be used to slit Wood's neck and cut his hands off.

The witness testified that everyone was laughing, including Rodas.

The co-defendants, including Rodas, met up in Lynchburg and abducted Wood from his home.

They said Wood was screaming for his mother until they strangled him unconscious in the backseat.

In August, Bedford County deputies testified that they pulled Rodas over for a traffic stop 10 minutes after a call came in from a woman who said she was nearly run over by someone in a Honda Accord. Deputies said when they searched his vehicle, they found a pair of shoes in it; this is relevant because Wood's shoes were not on him when his body was found.

Rodas told deputies he was paid to drive the car, but he did not know why.

The defense tried to make a case that if you get orders from higher ups in the gang, and don't follow them, they could kill you.

Cristian Sanchez-Gomez, Kevin Soto-Bonilla, and Coreas-Ventura are all charged with capital murder in connection to Wood's death, which carries the death penalty.

A sixth person was arrested in Albemarle County earlier in October and charged with one count of gang participation and two counts of felony accessory after the fact: one after the fact of capital murder and one after the fact of abduction for pecuniary benefit.

Juan Martin Hernandez's next court appearance will be in Bedford County next month for a review of his request to hire his own attorney.

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