Earlier this month, the town of Chalchuapa, El Salvador, mourned the brutal killing of a family of four plus a family friend. Among the victims was a 12-year-old basketball player.
On January 16, Omar Pimentel, trainer for the Sonsonate Soccer Club, was joined by members of his family to watch a soccer match in the town of Sonsonate. Pimentel’s family left around 10pm after the game. Pimentel stayed back. The family was driving on the Los Naranjos highway, a scenic route in El Salvador when they went missing. The next day, the soccer club officially reported the family missing.
Three MS-13 gang members who have been arrested on other charges are being linked to the murders. On February 7, the five bodies were found buried in a grave. Some of the deceased were mutilated. Evidence of gunshots were also discovered.
The victims were: Pimentel’s wife Rosa Ivette Colindres de Pimentel, 40; his son Marcos Antonio, 12; his mother-in-law Silvia Jaco de Colindres, 63, his son-in-law Carlos Jaco, 35, and Carlos’ girlfriend María Monterroza, 25, who was in her second year of college.
The unofficial version of the killing was that the family’s vehicle suffered a flat tire, and while they were changing the tire, they were abducted. Most recent versions, however, show that the vehicle’s tires were shot at.
Killings of off duty police officers and other rival gangs are common in El Salvador, but what makes these murder most horrific? It was a family who was abducted, brutally mutilated and buried in a coffee farm. In addition, the youngest victim was only 12 years old.
The young Marcos Antonio was a promising basketball player who still had the heart of a child. His entire team showed up for the viewing and funeral service that took place in the town’s local basketball court.
His father placed his jersey and his ball on Marcos Antonio’s coffin. The four coffins were lined up while the entire town mourned. (María Monterroza’s service was held elsewhere.)
During a press conference, Sonsonate Police Chief Hugo Padilla confirmed that five bodies have had been exhumed, also noting that DNA tests identified four of the bodies as members of Pimentel’s family.
Howard Cotto, police director of the PNC noted that as 10 people could have participated in the crime. So far, according to Cotto, three gang members have been arrested, plus a girlfriend of one of the gang members and two the coffee farm where the bodies were found.
Carlos Eduardo Cerna is one of the ones arrested. Police said that he is the region’s MS-13 leader and is also wanted for the killing of a jail custodian, among other homicides. Prosecutors noted that no charges have been filed yet and that a motive has not been established.
The exhuming of the bodies utilized archeological excavation techniques to preserve as much evidence as possible. The bodies were piled up on top of each other in a single grave.
People in Chalchuapa took to Facebook to express their outrage and pain for such a horrendous crime. The trending post was a black ribbon that read: “All of Chalchuapa mourns.” People on social media spoke of how the town was torn by pain and anger, “Ya basta” (“Enough is enough”) was another trending phrase as Marcos Antonio’s photo circulated online.
One of the most painful moments during the funeral was when 99-year-old matriarch Mercedes Jaco, cried over Marcos Antonio’s coffin as she held his basketball jersey. The young boy was her great-grandson.
Francisco Lozano is a freelance news photographer based in Los Angeles. You can follow him @FrancisLozano7.