Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Suspect Arrested in Puerto Rican Gay Teen Hate Murder Case

Jorge Steven López Mercado

San Juan, Puerto Rico – The Associated Press is reporting that the arrested suspect in Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado’s grisly murder is claiming the infamous “gay panic” defense to besmirch the character of the victim, and appeal to anti-gay machismo.  Regional Police Director Hector Agosto said, “This was a ruthless crime.  Whoever did this just wanted to make the person disappear.”  Gay rights advocates in the Caribbean United States Territory have carried out a number of memorial events for young Lopez Mercado, as well as protests in the capital, San Juan demanding that police investigate the murder as a bias-related hate crime.  “They are hurt and they are indignant,” gay activist Pedro Julio Serrano said to reporters. “They are calling for justice.”  Local island media are reporting that Juan Antonio Martínez Matos, 26, a father of four, was arrested by authorities for the murder.  Matos is alleging that he was in search of a woman for sex, and when he found out that Lopez Mercado was a gay youth instead of a female, he panicked.  Whether he is speaking under the direction of an attorney is not known at this time, but in any event, the suspect has appardently made the calculation that enough members of the public will buy his account that he will be more likely to receive a lighter sentence, if convicted.  On the mainland, the gay or trans-panic defense has been tried on many occasions in an attempt to cast enough aspersions on the character of the LGBT victim that public opinion will soften toward the defendant.  In recent court cases, such as the trial of Allen Ray Andrade, the murderer of trans Latina Angie Zapata in Greeley, Colorado, the panic defense has fallen flat.  Andrade, who made a similar claim, left both judge and jury unconvinced, and received life in prison without hope of parole.  According to Box Turtle Bulletin, Matos also claimed that Lopez Mercado demanded money from him. Police investigators have allegedly discovered a wig, a burned mattress, burned PVC pipe, and a knife at the suspect’s apartment.  Accounts also say that police found blood stains on the wall of the courtyard of the apartment.  Investigator José J. Bermúdez said to the press that he has no doubt that López’s murder can be prosecuted as a hate crime.  Since the public can easily be prejudiced by media accounts that are both uncritical of a suspect’s allegations about his victim, and unverified as to what actually may (or may not) have been found at a crime scene, the Unfinished Lives Project will pass these details along as currently unsubstantiated reports until properly and fully vetted.  Officials in Puerto Rico are now saying that the mutilated, beheaded and partially burned body of Lopez Mercado was discovered on Friday, November 13 in a wooded area near Cayey, only a few miles from his home in Caguas.  Both the LGBT community in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican population of New York City have expressed grave concern about the most savage murder of a gay person in Puerto Rico’s history.

November 18, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Colorado, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Media Issues, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. I truly hope justice is served and the murderer is prosecuted to the fullest extent the GLBT hate crime legislation allows. How can a 26 year old man “get away” with the cold blooded & sick murder of a teenager … Let us hope & pray justice is swift. The fact that the defendant decapitated the victim goes to show this was a ruthless & truly sick crime. Had Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado been heterosexual I do not believe this would have happened. How can a 26 year old man fear a teenager? My heart goes out to Jorge’s family & the GLBTQ Puerto Rico community & their allies.

    In solidarity,
    Erin from Maine

    Comment by Erin Maher | November 18, 2009

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