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He helped orchestrate a murder to join the MS-13 gang, now he'll head to prison for it

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Jul. 16 2021, Published 9:13 a.m. ET

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He murdered his classmate and maimed another. Now, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

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Marin County Superior Court Judge Kelly Simmons sentenced Juan Carlos Martinez Henriquez, 22, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of Edwin Josue Guerra, 17. She also sentenced him to 40 years to life for the attempted murder of a second victim.

The judge ordered both sentences to be served consecutively.

In May 2016, the former Novato High School student in California lured two of his classmates to an ambush at the waterfall near the end of Fairway Drive in Novato. The move by the El-Salvadorian native had been an initiation attempt to join MS-13, a Latin-American gang.

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He convinced his former classmates to hang out at the scene to smoke marijuana. Suddenly, Martinez Henriquez attacked the duo with other gang members who had been hiding in the vicinity.Josue Guerra was hacked multiple times with a machete and bludgeoned with rocks.

He suffered seven blows to his head and died crawling away to escape.


The other unnamed victim, 17, was shot once in the head and abdomen. He pretended to be dead to escape. Reportedly, the second victim survived the ordeal because the bullet missed his vital organs. As a result, investigators identified Martinez Henriquez as one of the eight perpetrators of the brutal and gruesome attack.

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Investigators arrested six assailants, with two still on the run as fugitives.

Josue Guerra came to the U.S. with his parents to escape gang violence in Central America. He has since been buried in Guatemala.

Martinez Henriquez’s defense lawyers appealed to the court for leniency as it exercised its sentencing discretion. The request was based on Martinez Henriquez’s actions due to his youth, poverty background and living environment in a gang-infested neighborhood.

“We were hoping that the court would follow the trend in case law and brain science with regards to brain development in adolescents. Mr. Martinez Henriquez had no prior record, and there was evidence that he has post-traumatic stress disorder. He has pledged to participate in therapy, counseling, educational and rehabilitative programs that the department of corrections has to offer. He will do all he can to stay positive and perhaps, one day, see the light of day beyond prison walls,” said Pedro Oliveros, one of his public defenders, according to Marin Independent Journal.


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