The fourth and final man convicted in a brutal 2017 gang-related murder in Albemarle County was given an active prison sentence of 30 years Friday.
Jose Escobar-Umana, 23, was convicted last year of murdering Marvin Rivera Guevara, 24, on July 3, 2017. All four defendants in the case have ties to the transnational street gang MS-13.
On Friday, county Circuit Judge Humes J. Franklin ordered Escobar-Umana to serve 15 years of a 40-year sentence for first-degree murder and 15 years of a 40-year sentence for murder by lynching. The sentences will be served one after the other, for a total of 30 years in prison.
He also was sentenced to 10 years for abduction and five years for gang participation, all suspended.
Escobar-Umana, an undocumented immigrant, will be eligible for deportation upon release from prison and could be ordered to serve the remaining years of his sentence, should he return the United States illegally.
On Friday, Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci asked the court to recognize that the slaying was “carried out for the benefit and at the direction of MS-13.”
Tracci summarized for Franklin the victim statements written by Guevara’s family members. The relatives decided not to read their statements in court due to emotional trauma and fear for their safety, Tracci said. They remembered Guevara as a kind man who valued his faith, he said, and expressed shock that such a crime could happen in the United States.
According to earlier testimony, Escobar-Umana took part in the murder of Guevara, whose badly mutilated body was found in Moore’s Creek near the Woolen Mills neighborhood on July 4, 2017.
Guevara was an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, but was not associated with any gang, according to court records.
According to testimony in previous hearings, Guevara was targeted by the gang because he made a comment to a fellow employee at a Charlottesville restaurant that MS-13 did not make the rules in the U.S. The comment was interpreted as disrespect for the gang.
Guevara drove to Woolen Mills on July 3, 2017, with Juan Carlos Argueta, his work colleague, under the guise of meeting women.
When they arrived at Woolen Mills, Guevara and Argueta were met by Walter Antonio Amaya, 21, who had traveled from Northern Virginia to Charlottesville to participate in the killing, along with Eduardo Zelaya, 20, and Escobar-Umana.
Escobar-Umana forced Guevara at gunpoint to walk toward the creek, where he was then struck by a machete. That blow was followed by at least 144 others until the machete handle busted off the blade, according to court records.
The hacking mutilated Guevara’s body so badly that he could not be identified by family and DNA testing had to be used, according to the state medical examiner.
The gang members then drove Guevara’s vehicle to Ingleridge Farm Road in Albemarle County, where they set it on fire.
Argueta, Amaya and Zelaya are also undocumented immigrants from El Salvador.
Argueta and Zelaya both pleaded guilty to murder by mob and gang participation and were given active sentences of 25 years.
Amaya pleaded guilty to the same charges as Escobar-Umana and was given an active sentence of 30 years in prison.
According to Tracci, the Albemarle County Police Department was the lead investigate agency in the case and law enforcement partners included the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Safe Streets Task Force and the FBI.
The lynching statute allows murder charges to be filed against every person involved in a mob, group or gang action that inflicts violence on another person resulting in death. This case was the first time the statute has been used in Albemarle, according to Tracci.