There are new developments in the case of Jorge Steven López Mercado, the gay 19-year-old whose brutally murdered, decapitated and dismembered body was found two weeks ago in Puerto Rico. One of the key statements by the confessed murderer is being questioned: That the victim was presenting himself as female.
Juan Martínez Matos has been charged with first-degree murder and remains jailed on $4 million bond. Martínez confessed to killing and mutilating López and is laying the foundation of a "gay-panic" defense. Martínez says he met López while looking for a prostitute. Martinez claims López was dressed as a woman and killed him in self-defense after discovering he was a man. Doug Ireland at Gay City News:
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Pedro Julio Serrano contradicted the implications in the confessed murderer’s account. "None of Jorge Steven’s friends, and I’ve spoken to many of them, knew anything about his ever having engaged in sex work, not his family, and not the police," Serrano, who met with investigators on the case, told this reporter. "Nor was he known as a cross-dresser. He identified and lived as a very proud gay man, he was very genuine and authentic. He was just very fashion-oriented and what you could call a gender-bender, but not in a transgendered way." Serrano added, "We do not know if the murderer’s claim that Jorge Steven was wearing a dress is true or not, because the body had been so dismembered, its legs and arms and torso strewn in different locations, and it had also been burned along with the clothes he was wearing."
On Thanksgiving Eve, thousands marched through San Juan to hold a candlelight vigil for the slain teen. The crowd demanded authorities investigate the case as an anti-gay hate crime.
Under considerable pressure by gay activists, the Puerto Rico Department of Justice has agreed to investigate the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado as a hate crime. There have been at least 20 murders of gay men or transgender women since a 2002 hate crime law was passed in this U.S. commonwealth. This will be the first time the law has been applied.
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