Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago's family learns of her murder; Israel González photo for Prima Hora

Corozal, Puerto Rico – The Washington Post reports that scores of sobbing mourners wearing tee shirts emblazoned with the likeness of Ashley Santiago Ocasio attended her funeral Friday in the central mountain town of Corozal.  Her mother, Carmen Ocasio, told reporters from Prima Hora that her 31-year-old transgender daughter had no enemies she was aware of, no one she could imagine taking her life.  “I lost my daughter,” she said. “I’m in shock. Why would someone kill Ashley, why?”  Authorities are still searching for a lead in the case, but as the LGBT community in Puerto Rico has come to expect, authorities have not invoked the 2002 hate crime statute that would send a convicted killer to prison for life.  Though the drumbeat of pressure is mounting for prosecutors to apply the unused hate crimes law to LGBT victims, prospects for doing so in this case do not look promising.  Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, points out that five recent crimes should have been designated terror-attacks against not only the victims, but the entire LGBT population.  Hate crimes against members of the sexual minority are “message-crimes,” meant to drive the LGBT community into fear and hiding.  As Serrano notes, one of the five recent cases was the November 2009 decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in Caguas.  A charge of first-degree murder has been filed against the youth’s alleged killer, but the hate crime statute has not been invoked even in a slaughter so gruesome as this.  In the Santiago case, police are speculating that robbery may have been a motive in the slaying of the popular, attractive beauty salon owner.  Two evidentiary aspects of the investigation so far seem to argue against a robbery motive alone, however.  First, Ms. Santiago’s home showed no signs of breaking and entering.  Someone she knew probably carried out the murder. Even though her automobile was taken from the scene, as Pedro Serrano observed to the Post, “The law is very clear and we’re asking authorities to investigate without prejudice. Even if Ashley’s death was also a robbery, there could be the angle of hate. We need that to be investigated,” Serrano emphasized to the Post.  The chief investigator has promised to used the Puerto Rican hate crimes law “if the evidence warrants it.”  The second aspect of the murder that suggests Serrano is right, that hate against Ms. Santiago was probably a factor is the extreme nature of the crime scene.  There was so much blood, so widely pooled and spattered, that police believed from the beginning of the investigation that the victim had been stabbed multiple times, hardly likely for a robbery alone.  The overkill typical of anti-LGBT crimes is clearly present in the Santiago slaying. The community of Corozal is stunned in the wake of their most notorious murder.  Ms. Santiago was well-liked in town, confident that her transition was the fulfillment of herself as a person.  She had commenced hormone therapy, and had undergone breast surgery, according to Serrano.  The usually neglected Transgender Community on the Caribbean island paradise is waiting for a break in the case, and firmly demanding justice for their sister Ashley.

April 27, 2010 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay teens, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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