Antonio Planas Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A teen MS-13 gang member who is illegally in the country was charged yesterday with murder in the brutal stabbing death of a 16-year-old boy whose body was found in December in a marsh in East Boston — one of a series of teen killings linked to the violent gang in Eastie.

Jorge Melgar Fuentes, 19, was held without bail in East Boston District Court for the slaying of Carlos Villatoro-Nunez, whose partially decomposed body was found Dec. 9.

Prosecutor Jennifer Hickman said Villatoro-Nunez was reported missing by his father Nov. 13 and found nearly a month later at the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation. The teen’s body was riddled with “18 knife wounds,” Hickman said.

The baby-faced Melgar pleaded not guilty via a Spanish interpreter. At one point, he appeared to smirk while looking at someone in the courtroom.

Shawn A. Neudauer, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, wrote in an email Melgar is a MS-13 member.

“Jorge Geovanni Melgar-Fuentes, an illegally present citizen of El Salvador, was arrested by ICE officers on June 7, in south Texas. Melgar is a documented gang member,” Neudauer wrote, identifying the gang as “MS-13.”

Melgar’s attorney, John Galvin, declined comment after the hearing. Police have said they were investigating the slaying and any ties between the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs.

Melgar was detained on an immigration matter by Homeland Security agents in Houston. He was flown to Boston Friday.

Melgar’s co-defendant in the slaying, Moris Javier Landaverde, 21, was indicted May 1 on a murder charge. He is being held without bail.

According to a state police report for Landaverde’s arrest, he “confessed to his involvement with Carlos Nunez’s murder. Landaverde detailed his and other co-conspirators’ involvement in the murder of Carlos Nunez.”

Court documents also said, “numerous friends and associates of Carlos Nunez were interviewed. Many of those interviewed have been associated and/or affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) or 18th Street gangs.”

MS-13’s motto is, “Kill. Rape. Control.” The vicious gang originated in Los Angeles and has deep ties to El Salvador. Members are known to hack rivals to death with machetes and knives.

Villatoro-Nunez was one of two teens found slain in December in East Boston. The body of Luis Fernando Orellano Ruano, 18, was found fatally stabbed Christmas Eve near Memorial Stadium.

In total, five Hispanic teens were found slain between September 2015 and December. Three of those cases have been definitively linked by authorities to the escalating feud between rivals MS-13 and 18th Street.