- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

An MS-13 gang member on trial for the 2003 slaying of a 17-year-old pregnant girl told a jury yesterday he did not know that one of his three co-defendants had ordered the killing.

Oscar Garcia-Orellana, 32, testified that he never heard of Denis Rivera, 21, the accused mastermind of the slaying, and had never met him until they were indicted and called into U.S. District Court in Alexandria last year.

Testifying through a Spanish interpreter, Garcia-Orellana said he heard of Rivera only by his nickname ?Conejo,? which means ?rabbit,? but never in connection with the killing of Brenda Paz.

Prosecutors presented recorded jail telephone conversations as evidence that Rivera arranged Miss Paz’s slaying. Rivera was in jail awaiting trial for another slaying in which Miss Paz was to be a witness against him. He later was found guilty of that murder.

Garcia-Orellana told jurors that it was only after Miss Paz’s slaying that he learned that she had been talking to police and FBI agents about MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, the largest and most violent street gang in Northern Virginia.

Miss Paz was in a witness protection program in Virginia in 2002. She was killed July 13, 2003, and her body was found four days later on the banks of the Shenandoah River.

Garcia-Orellana was the last witness in the trial. The jury is expected to return Monday to hear closing arguments and begin deliberations.

The other two defendants are Ismael J. Cisneros, 26, and Oscar A. Grande, 22.

All four suspects are charged with capital murder. If found guilty, they could face the death penalty.

In his first day of testimony, Garcia-Orellana said he had attended a party the night of July 12, 2003, at the Holiday Inn in Fair Oaks. When he was awakened the next morning by Cisneros, he was invited to take another MS-13 gang member to his home in Harrisonburg, Va., and then go fishing.

?This is the same friend that took you to a murder scene and caused you to see a murder?? asked Nina Ginsberg, Cisneros’ defense attorney.

?Yes, he was the same one,? answered Garcia-Orellana, adding that he was angered but ?I did not show it. He might get upset with me.?

When he was questioned by attorneys representing his co-defendants, Garcia-Orellana testified that he had never before met Miss Paz, who came along on the trip that day. With only one fishing pole, he, Miss Paz, Cisneros and Grande began walking along the north fork of the Shenandoah River.

Garcia-Orellana said he suddenly heard Miss Paz scream. He said he turned and saw Cisneros and Grande stabbing her.

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