- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Two Hispanic men were killed and a third wounded in a triple stabbing yesterday morning in a parking lot in Langley Park, near the spot where day laborers gather to seek work and a few feet from a community police station.

Cesar Mayorga and Anibal Escobar Cruz were stabbed multiple times in the upper body. Their bodies were found in the Toys R Us parking lot near the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in Langley Park.

Prince George’s police Cpl. Diane Richardson said police think the men were homeless and likely were “ambushed” as they slept. Police did not identify the wounded man because he is a probable witness, but said he was in stable condition at a local hospital.

Police said they do not know whether the men were illegal aliens. Officers did not know the victims’ countries of origin or whether they had known addresses.

A relative said Mr. Mayorga had a wife and three children in Guatemala and WRC-TV (Channel 4) reported that he is from Honduras and had left behind a family.

Mr. Cruz’s brother, Lavaro Escobar Cruz, said he can’t understand why anyone would harm his brother.

“At this point, I’m basically devastated,” he told Channel 4 through a translator.

County police Cpl. Clinton Copeland said he is not sure how authorities would handle the survivor if he is found to be an illegal alien, because he is a witness to a crime.

Cpl. Copeland said police have not alerted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials.

“Those are probably things that will come down the road, but right now they are just worrying about trying to find out what happened in this situation, in this crime,” Cpl. Copeland said.

Yesterday, police were trying to piece together the crime scene.

The bodies were found in the shrubbery of the parking lot in the 8000 block of New Hampshire Avenue at 6:50 a.m.

The bodies were found 50 feet from a county police substation. Cpl. Copeland said the station was not open at the time of the stabbing.

The men were not day laborers, even though their bodies were found somewhat near a spot where day laborers gather to seek work, police said.

Police said there was no initial evidence that the stabbings were related to gangs.

But the presence of gangs has contributed to an atmosphere of violence in Langley Park.

On a sign about 100 feet from the crime scene, someone had written “MS13,” which stands for Mara Salvatrucha. MS-13 is one of the most violent and largest street gangs in the area.

MS-13 is thought to be involved in the nonfatal stabbings of six teenagers in Montgomery County last week.

Two teens were stabbed at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring and four at a Target store in Wheaton. Eleven persons have been taken into custody in connection with those attacks.

Yesterday, neighbors said the victims often drank and slept in the parking lot.

“We’re trying to determine who killed these men and why,” Cpl. Richardson said. “They may have been ambushed.”

Police think Mr. Mayorga was 27 and Mr. Cruz was 28, although relatives said Mr. Mayorga was 34.

Police also were investigating whether the men had been robbed or were intoxicated.

A crowd of mostly Hispanic immigrants gathered at the parking lot and watched police examine the crime scene for hours. Police cordoned off the Toys R Us parking lot with yellow tape.

“I am scared [of] gangs,” Sonia Gomez, a resident said a Washington Times reporter in Spanish. “I don’t know the truth of what happened. Personally I have never had problems.”

She said the men who seek work on the opposite end of the parking lot always have been nice to her.

Victor Manuel, a painter who seeks day labor regularly nearby, said there is much violence in the streets of his neighborhood.

“I’m scared, but I don’t leave because there is a lot of work,” he told a Times reporter in Spanish.

Jose Daniel Fuentes said one of the deceased victims used to live in the Hampshire Village Apartments across the street from the parking lot. Mr. Fuentes said the victim, whom he didn’t know by name, always offered help to others.

Mr. Fuentes said the man once gave him shelter in exchange for Mr. Fuentes’ promise that he would enter rehabilitation for his alcohol problem.

“Now he’s dead, and I feel so bad,” Mr. Fuentes said.

Police are offering up to $25,000 for information about the stabbing.

They ask anyone with information to call 866/411-TIPS to leave anonymous tips in English or Spanish.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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