Trial Day 3: Teen screamed for his mother until he was strangled, stabbed to death
BEDFORD Co., Va. (WSET) -- An accused gang member has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection to the murder of a Lynchburg teenager in 2017.
Victor Rodas is 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 one of six currently facing charges.
For his first day of trial, the Commonwealth's Attorney and Rodas' defense attorney both made their opening statements with contradicting descriptions of how Rodas played a part in the abduction and murder of 17-year-old Raymond Wood.
Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney Wes Nance argues Rodas plays a big part in plotting and planning of Wood's death in March 2017.
The defense argues that Rodas got caught up with the wrong person, alleged MS-13 gang member Josue Coreas Ventura, and was not a member of the gang.
Defense Attorney Matthew Pack argued Ventura instructed Rodas to drive the car the night Wood was abducted and killed.
On the second day of trial, the prosecution put eight witnesses on the stand, including an admitted MS 13 gang member who talked about gang culture and expectations of being in a gang and a gang specialist testified about text messages and pictures recovered from Rodas' phone.
The gang specialist was able to see Rodas' recent searches, which included web searches for MS 13-related murders in New York.
On Thursday, the third day of trial, prosecutors showed the jury a knife that could be the weapon used in the brutal murder of Wood.
Nance says Wood was stabbed 29 times and while Rodas was not responsible for any of those wounds, the prosecution claims he told co-defendants he wanted to and asked to 'participate in the carving up of Raymond Wood.'
Wood's hand was cut off and his neck was also slit.
Prosecutors brought Investigator Jon Maddox in to testify that they found a knife in June, about three miles from the scene of the crime, after an interview with one of the six suspects.
"I walked about 20 yards and looked down, because there was a shimmer of light that that hit right, caught my attention. I looked down on the ground and saw a dragon's head," said Investigator Maddox.
Maddox said the knife is 17 inches long.
Prosecutors also brought a co-conspirator who drove to Lynchburg from Maryland with three co-defendants the night Wood was killed.
He explained that he met with five other co-defendants the evening of March 27 2017, the night of Wood's death.
He said 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.
He testified that Rodas was driving and dropped them off on Roaring Run Road where they took turns slashing Wood with a knife.
Testimony on day three also looked at gang culture and evidence to link Rodas to MS 13.
The prosecution showed pictures of Rodas wearing an MS hat and an MS 13 gang expert testified a non-gang member would never wear an MS hat.
"There are different variations of this, but this is the one they greet themselves with amongst themselves and they'll display it to rival gang members so they know who they are dealing with," he testified.
The gang expert said gang signs were also sketched in a notebook recovered from Rodas' home.
The defense is making a case that if you get orders from higher ups in the gang, and don't follow them, they could kill you.
Senior Special Agent Willis testified Tuesday that Rodas admitted he had to ties to the MS-13 gang in El Salvador where he lived until he was about 14-15 years old.
He told investigators he lost those ties in the states, but that if the gang asked him to do something, he had to do it.
Wood was found dead in the 1700 block of Roaring Run Road in Bedford County on March 27, 2017.
Roads' trial is expected to last several days.