Justice for Junior: Five gang members sentenced after slashing beloved teen with machete

Five gang members were sentenced to prison on Friday for fatally stabbing a 15-year-old New York boy whom they mistook for a rival gang member.

Though all five men were convicted of first-degree murder, Joniki Matinez Estrella, 24, was the only person sentenced to life in prison without parole for the June 2018 slaying of Lesandro Guzman-Feliz.

Three of the attackers, Jose Muniz, 23, Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago, 25, and Elvin Garcia, 25, received 25-to-life sentences while Manuel Rivera, 19, was sentenced to 23 years to life due to his age, according to the New York Daily News.

While en route to court on Friday, Estrella was found with a one-inch sharp object in his shoe, according to WABC. He told the judge that he didn’t mean to kill the teen and blamed his actions on alcohol, drugs, and his gang allegiance.

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An unmoved Judge Robert Neary called Estrella “cowardly” and accused him of wanting to be the “big shot” of the gang. He deemed Estrella the “executioner” before handing down the life sentence, according to WPIX.

A total of 15 suspects, all reportedly members of the Sures set of the Trinitarios gang, have been charged or convicted in connection with Guzman-Feliz’s murder. They are believed to have targeted the teen because they thought he was affiliated with a rival gang responsible for shooting one of their members two days earlier.

Police said, however, that the teen’s murder was a case of mistaken identity.

Prosecutors said the teen succumbed to a neck wound caused by a 4-and-a-half inch knife that severed his jugular vein. Surveillance cameras caught a group of men dragging Guzman-Feliz outside a Bronx bodega before stabbing and attacking him. The teen took off on foot but bled to death blocks away from the hospital.

The Daily News reported that Estrella was filmed plunging a bread knife into Guzman-Feliz’s throat while Muniz hacked the teen with a machete.

In addition to first-degree murder, the five men were found guilty in June of second-degree murder, gang assault, and conspiracy.

Two of the men accused of participating in the filmed slaying, Kevin Alvarez, 19, and Michael Reyes, 21, have become key witnesses in exchange for lighter sentences.

The eight remaining suspects are awaiting trial. WABC reported that Estrella plans to appeal his sentence.

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[Featured image: Lesandro Guzman-Feliz/Facebook]