- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A pregnant teenager found slain nearly two years ago in Virginia was bored in a safe house and wanted to be among her former Mara Salvatrucha gang associates before she was killed, government witnesses testified yesterday.

Three witnesses said Brenda Paz, 17, grew up in the gang communities of Los Angeles and witnessed various gang-related crimes. Miss Paz also had an alcoholic father and a frequently ill mother.

“She preferred to reside on the streets, as opposed to returning to the safe house,” FBI agent Lawrence Alexander told a jury during the second day of testimony in the trial of four Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang members charged with killing her.

Federal prosecutors say Oscar Alexander Garcia-Orellana, 31; Oscar Antonio Grande, 21; and Ismael Juarez Cisneros, 25, killed Miss Paz on July 13, 2003, at the direction of Denis Rivera, 20, who was in jail awaiting trial in the slaying of a rival gang member.

Prosecutors contend the four men knew that Miss Paz was talking to police and that she was going to be a witness in Mr. Rivera’s murder trial. Each man is charged with capital murder and face the death penalty.

Gregory Hunter, Miss Paz’s court-appointed guardian, and therapist Carla Hutchinson yesterday echoed Mr. Alexander’s description of Miss Paz when they took the witness stand at U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Mr. Hunter told the 18-member jury that Miss Paz did things that “were downright foolish,” including keeping notes on activities and people she met, as well as diaries and police officers’ cards.

“She had a habit of recording what was going on in her life,” Mr. Hunter testified. “I told her not to do it.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes Jr. said in opening statements Monday that Mr. Grande read some of the diaries and told other gang members that she was giving incriminating evidence to police.

In fall 2002, authorities assigned Miss Paz to the Witness Protection Program and moved her to a safe house in Maryland.

The witnesses told jurors that Miss Paz was bored at the safe house and broke rules against having parties and guests. Miss Paz was moved to different locations before she returned to Northern Virginia in mid-2003, the witnesses said.

Mr. Walutes said three of the defendants fatally stabbed Miss Paz. Her body was found on the banks of the Shenandoah River.

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