Jose Miguel Espinosa De Dios, 19, appeared before Judge Stephen E. Sincavage June 7 in Loudoun County Circuit Court and entered an Alford guilty plea to first degree murder and felony use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
An Alford plea means Espinosa De Dios maintains his innocence but entered this guilty plea because the evidence the prosecution had would have likely persuaded a jury of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
On the morning of September 4, 2015, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a shooting in Sterling. According to an Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney (OCA) release, deputies responded to the area and located an unresponsive Hispanic man suffering from apparent gunshot wounds. The victim was transported to INOVA Fairfax Hospital where he was pronounced dead by medical staff.
Witnesses indicated that they had seen a young male shooter fire multiple gunshots at the victim as he walked from his home to a nearby school bus stop. Subsequent investigation by law enforcement revealed that the victim was affiliated with the 18th Street criminal gang and that he had been involved in a conflict with rival members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) criminal street gang.
Espinosa De Dios was identified as a suspect later that same day, and law enforcement found him in his home after executing a search warrant. The gun used to shoot the victim was found in the freezer. Espinosa De Dios initially denied involvement in the shooting, but later admitted to shooting the victim. He told detectives that the gun was given to him the week before for the purpose of killing the victim. He also said he’d had problems with members of the 18th Street gang in the year leading up to the shooting, according to the release.
Espinosa De Dios continues to be held in the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center without bond, pending scheduling of a final sentencing hearing, OCA officials said.