In early June, Montgomery County Police received a tip about a body buried in Seneca Creek State Park in Germantown. Detectives located the remains of a male in a shallow grave in Seneca Creek Park located on Black Rock Road in Germantown.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has ruled this death a homicide. MCPD Major Crimes Division is investigating the homicide. Police believe the victim, which appears to be a 15- to 17-year-old male of Hispanic descent, has been in the shallow grave for over a year. It is believed that the victim has been deceased since February or March of 2017. Detectives believe the victim may possibly be from the Hyattsville area.
Investigators have not been able to identify the victim and are now asking for the public’s assistance. Detectives from the Major Crimes Division are working with officers from the MCPD 1st District to unravel the circumstances leading up to the discovery of the body, which was located in the park in the area of Black Rock Road. While the area is a Germantown address, it is part of the 1st District in Rockville, which covers Rockville west to Poolesville and the Montgomery County line.
Example photos of the victim’s clothing and a photo of a rosary that was found with the victim are being released in hopes that someone may recognize the items leading to the identity of the male.
The following personal effects were located with the victim:
● A blue, medium-sized Old Navy heavy jacket with a zipper. The detachable hood is attached with snaps.
● A blue, Nautica brand striped sweater with zipper at the neck. The sweater is boys size extra-large (14-16).
● Adam Levine “The Dean” slim-fit denim jeans, waist size 30, length size 32.
● Black knit gloves.
● Black, size 10 USPA sneakers.
● Black socks.
● Black, Guess belt, size 32 with a silver rectangular buckle.
● White and blue striped Timberland Polo shirt.
● A turquoise rosary
This investigation is ongoing, police said. Detectives are urging anyone who has information regarding this homicide to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect. Call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or leave a Crime Solvers tip here. Tipsters will remain anonymous.
On its face, and with the little details which police have released about this latest body found in yet another wooded portion of Seneca Creek State Park, this case bears an eerie familiarity to the last two cases where human remains were found in shallow grave in the park.
This is the third body found in Seneca Creek State Park since 2015. The first two bodies were murdered by members of the infamous MS-13 gang.
The most recent was found November of 2016, when the body of Jordy Mejia, 22, of New Jersey was found by hikers in a shallow grave in the wooded area in the 11500 block of Game Preserve Road. In January 2017, detectives arrested five people in connection with the murder of Mejia. Police arrested Neris Moreno, 19, of West New York, NJ, Jackelin Leiba-Esperanza, age 16, of Brentwood, MD, Reynaldo A Granados-Vasquez, 21, of Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg, Jose Israel Melendez-Rivera, 18, of Lost Knife Circle in Montgomery Village, and Katerine Solorzano-Aparicio, 17, of Hyattsville, for the homicide of Jordy Mejia.
In August of 2015, hunters discovered the body of 34-year-old Marvin Misael Vargas-Osorio of Gaithersburg in a shallow grave in a different wooded area of the parkland about three miles north in Great Seneca Stream Valley Park off Germantown Road. In December 2015, four suspected members of the MS-13 street gang were arrested in connection with that murder.
The four suspects in that case were Luis F. Avelar Morales, 18, of Girard Street in Gaithersburg, Daniel Adonai Ramos, 19, of Lost Knife Circle in Montgomery Village, Edwin E. Reyes-Martinez, 18, of the unit block of Whetstone Drive in Gaithersburg, and Juan Espinal Rapalo, 18, of Summit Avenue in Gaithersburg. They were charged with first-degree murder.
It was these two cases, which led Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy to tell County Council members at a Public Safety Sub-committee meeting in last July that there have been 18 gang-related homicides in Montgomery County in 2016-2017. “That is a terrifying number,” said McCarthy. Many of those murders either took place or resulted in the bodies being buried in shallow graves in Seneca Creek State Park.
That sobering testimony from the State’s Attorney was the impetus for the additional funding to counteract gang activity which the County Council approved back in October.
The Council approved a supplemental appropriation to the Police Department for $596,920 and the State's Attorney's Office for $246,773. With the additional funds, MCPD has restructured and expanded its Central Street Gang Unit to allow two sections to work together on complementary strategies and to fund six new positions, including one sergeant, three detectives, and two civilian gang analysts. The additional funds in the State’s Attorney’s Office allowed for the addition of three new Assistant State's Attorneys and one Senior Legal Assistant.
Top photo is a file photo by Germantown Pulse