Jail director defends release of alleged MS-13 members despite ICE detainer, now charged with murder of 14-yr-old girl

(Image: screenshot)

Maryland agencies not only released two teen murder suspects despite an ICE detainer, but they are also now defending the decision which many believe led to the death of a 14-year-old girl.

“A detainer is not a warrant,” Mary Lou McDonough, Director of the Department of Corrections in Prince George’s County said in response to criticism from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement which argued that it was never notified when the Salvadoran nationals were released.

Josue Rafael Fuentes-Ponce, 16, and Joel Ernesto Escobar, 17, were released despite being in the country illegally and went on, with 14-year-old Cynthia Hernandez-Nucamendi, to allegedly murder 14-year-old Ariana Funes-Diaz whose body was found in a creek in Riverdale last week, according to Fox5 DC.

The boys, who police suspect are members of the violent MS-13 gang, were arrested in Prince George’s County last year on gang-related charges and attempted murder and, a few days later, were transferred to a state-run youth detention center.

According to WTOP-TV:

Escobar, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, spent 10 months at the youth detention center and was taken back to the Prince George’s County jail on March 15 of this year, when he was released to a family member on the same day. A previous statement from the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections said that Escboar was not in county custody at the time of his release.

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services released Fuentes-Ponce following the disposition of his case. The state declined to provide the date of his release because of his juvenile status.

Prince George’s County Department of Corrections said that it followed guidance from State Attorney General Brian Frosh in not informing ICE of Escobar’s release.


“These individuals had demonstrated violent criminal behavior before, and because they were released in spite of the lawful detainer, they were afforded an opportunity to take a life,” ICE Baltimore Field Office Director Diane Witte said in a statement.

ICE claims that the transfer of  the teens from county to state custody, and the transfer of Escobar back to county custody for release was never communicated to the federal agency.

Fox5 DC reported:

ICE says Fuentes-Ponce arrived in the United States on December 23, 2015, with a family unit in Texas. On March 16, 2017, an immigration judge ordered Fuentes to be removed in absentia.

On Aug. 23, 2016, ICE says Escobar was found to be an “unlawfully present accompanied juvenile” near McAllen, Texas. He was transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement then later released to a family member in the D.C. area, according to ICE.


The release of the teens not only prompted a rebuke from ICE, it sparked an outcry over the needless murder of a young girl which could have been prevented even as the Prince George’s County jail director defended the decision.


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