Friends, family mourn death of Langley Park teen
Police say brutal Gaithersburg stabbing may be gang-related
Leah L. Jones/The Gazette
The Tiempo Gracia Church in Silver Spring was filled Friday night with about 250 mourners who stood in silence as Maxima Saenz, supported by two men, entered to say goodbye to her only son.
"Oh my child! Why?" the Langley Park resident cried in Spanish, her sobbing ringing through the church.
The group gathered for the funeral of 15-year-old Dennis Alfredo Guzman-Saenz, who was found brutally stabbed in a Gaithersburg park on Jan. 19.
Police are investigating whether his death is connected to a gang rivalry or is otherwise gang-related; police also believe the teen, who was stabbed repeatedly, was killed in Montgomery County, according Montgomery County Police. Guzman-Saenz's body was found at 7:30 a.m. at the edge of a stream in Malcolm King Park by a resident collecting trash in the Shady Grove Village neighborhood.
Guzman-Saenz was a freshman at High Point High School in Beltsville, where students and staff spent last week raising money to help his family pay for sending the teen's body to El Salvador to be buried, Principal Michael Brooks said.
Guzman-Saenz played soccer on Northwestern High School's Boys and Girls Club's team. The club's program director, Cynthia Bardwell, said Guzman-Saenz was striving to lead a productive life despite violent surroundings.
"This young man died trying to make a better choice," Bardwell said. "There are other people around him involved, and because of that, he lost his life."
County police spokeswoman Blanca Kling said Guzman-Saenz's uncle, Jairon Jeremias Osorio, was killed Jan. 1 in Langley Park, but police don't know whether the deaths are related.
Osorio, 28, was found dead from gunshot wounds to his upper body. Police arrested Juan Mauricio Cruz, 22, of no fixed address, in the incident that is believed to be gang-related, according to Prince George's County police.
Harriet Ross, High Point High School's English for Speakers of Other Languages crisis intervention specialist, said Guzman-Saenz visited her often after his uncle's death.
"He didn't want to be out much. He was nervous," she said, but didn't elaborate.
Ross said she was close with Guzman-Saenz.
"Kids would come to me even before he came [to High Point] saying, Wait until you meet Dennis,'" Ross said. "He turned out to be so much more than they had ever described."
High Point students told Ross about the homicide.
"Right away I thought, It couldn't be that one,' and when they said which one it was, I got hysterical because you just wish it would come to an end," she said.
Ross said students knew Guzman-Saenz was dead when initial media reports described him as an Asian or Hispanic young man wearing a black North Face jacket.
Guzman-Saenz's 21-year-old sister, Sulejma, told The Gazette that the teen lived with six family members in an apartment, Sulejma said. Their mother has been in the U.S. for eight years, working as a cleaning lady. Guzman-Saenz and his two sisters arrived three years ago from El Salvador.
Samantha Salgado, 19, his assistant soccer coach, said a friend had brought the teen to play soccer over a year ago, and although he was shy, he quickly made friends and was a starting midfielder.
Salgado said Guzman-Saenz had been waiting to take a bus in Langley Park on Jan. 18 to meet a friend at the Mall at Prince Georges, but Guzman-Saenz never showed up or called, Salgado said.
"It's not like him to not call," she said.
Detectives have confirmed Guzman-Saenz was in Langley Park at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18. "We're not aware that he ever made it to the mall," said Lucille Baur, a Montgomery County Police spokeswoman, who said police have not determined how the teen arrived in Gaithersburg.
If you have information
Police are still seeking information about Guzman-Saenz and circumstances related to his death. Anyone with information is asked to call Montgomery County Police at 240-773-5070. Callers may remain anonymous.
Staff Writer Patricia M. Murret contributed to this report.