‘Enthusiastic murderer’ surrenders after one day on FBI’s Top Ten list

Posted at 4:44 PM, Mar 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-28 16:44:56-04

(CNN) – A man suspected of killing a young New York mother and her toddler in 2010 was arrested in Nicaragua one day after making the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, a source familiar with the investigation said Friday.

Juan Elias Garcia, who the FBI calls an “enthusiastic murderer,” had a $100,000 reward on his head.

Garcia surrendered Thursday to authorities at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, the source said. The extradition process is underway.

“Garcia’s callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son,” George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said on the agency’s website when Garcia made the list Wednesday.

Garcia is alleged to be a member of the violent MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang. He was thought to be hiding in El Salvador.

The FBI said a romantic entanglement and gang rivalries lay at the heart of slayings.

Alleged victim Vanessa Argueta, 19, is said to have had a romantic relationship with Garcia — and she’s also believed to have had ties to two rival gangs: the 18th Street gang and the Latin Kings.

“They were going to kill her for disrespecting the gang,” said Special Agent James Lopez in the FBI release. “It is unacceptable for MS-13 members to have girls they associate with be involved with rival gang members.”

The FBI said that under the guise of an invitation to dinner in Central Islip, New York, Garcia coerced Argueta and her 2-year-old son into the woods. There, they were met by two co-conspirators — members of Mara Salvatrucha — and Argueta was murdered execution-style in front of her son. The FBI said the same gun was then used to kill the toddler.

Garcia is 5 foot, 4 inches and weighs 125 pounds. He was 17 and answered to the nickname “Cruzito” at the time of the slayings on February 4, 2010. The FBI considered him armed and dangerous.

“His appointment to the FBI’s Top Ten list illustrates not only the seriousness of his crimes but our commitment to seeking justice for his victims,” said Venizelos.

By Susan Candiotti and Gabe LaMonica