MIKE MELIA - Associated Press Writer - November 18, 2009 - The Baltimore Sun
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Murder charges were filed Wednesday in the slaying of a gay teenager whose decapitated, partially burned body was found last week, while U.S. authorities said they were still considering whether to make it a hate crime case.
Gay activists expressed disappointment that the suspect wasn't immediately charged with a hate crime, saying authorities in Puerto Rico have never invoked a law covering crimes based on sexual orientation.
The dismembered body of 19-year-old college student Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was discovered Friday along a road in the interior town of Cayey. Lopez was widely known as a volunte
er for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights, and activists are planning remembrance vigils for him in cities including San Juan, New York and Chicago.
The suspect, 26-year-old Juan Martinez Matos, was arrested earlier this week and allegedly confessed to killing Lopez and mutilating his body. He was charged with first-degree murder and weapons violations and jailed on $4 million bond.
It could not be immediately determined if Martinez was represented by an attorney.
Martinez met Lopez while looking for women Thursday night in an area known for prostitution, according to prosecutor Jose Bermudez Santos. Bermudez said the suspect confessed to stabbing Lopez, who was dressed as a woman, after discovering he was a man.
"He has a deep-seated rage," Bermudez said in remarks reported by the newspaper El Nuevo Dia.
"All the information we have is very clear that this is indeed a hate crime," said Pedro Julio Serrano, a Puerto Rico native who is a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Read complete article – by MIKE MELIA - Associated Press Writer – The Baltimore Sun
OutSpoken - Task Force speaks out on brutal killing in Puerto Rico
By Task Force staff, November 17, 2:00 pm
The Task Force is speaking out on the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López, a 19-year-old gay man in Puerto Rico, in a possible hate crime.
A suspect has reportedly been arrested.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force stands in solidarity with the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jorge Steven López. We urge local law enforcement authorities to continue their expedient work on this case. Fortunately, Puerto Rico has a local hate crimes statute, but it is imperative that federal authorities continue to monitor this ongoing investigation and step in if necessary or assist if asked, as allowed by the new federal hate crimes law.”
Statement by Pedro Julio Serrano, Task Force Communications Manager; Founder, Puerto Rico Para Tod@s
“This is a terrible, terrible crime. While we are pleased that law enforcement has acted promptly in making an arrest, it is vital that the hate crimes angle be investigated. This horrendous killing of a young gay man shows no compassion or respect for the dignity of a human life. As someone who grew up in Puerto Rico and has been very active in its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, this is a heart-wrenching moment. Our hearts and sympathies go out to all of Jorge Steven López’s loved ones at this difficult time. Justice must prevail.” Read more - By Task Force staff - Task Force