Preliminary hearing for gay Puerto Rican teenager’s alleged killer continues

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Saturday February 6, 2010

As the preliminary hearing of the man who allegedly decapitated and dismembered Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado continues in a Puerto Rico court room, details about the murdered teenager's life continue to emerge.

David Jos Medina Quiones, known as Andrgena, told the court on Tuesday he and Lpez went to a Caguas street to prostitute themselves in the hours before Juan Jos Martnez Matos allegedly murdered the gay teenager. Juan Carlos Quiles, who calls herself Maritza, said Martnez offered her drugs in exchange for sex. Quiles said she refused, but she identified Martnez as the man with whom she saw Lpez leave on Nov. 12, 2009.

"She saw Jorge leave with the suspect," Thomas Bryan, a lawyer and activist who has attended the hearing every day since it began on Feb. 1, told EDGE late yesterday afternoon. "She also declared she had identified him before."

Martnez reportedly told investigators he killed Lpez after he discovered he was a man. And his lawyers have pointed out the teenager's reported drug-cocaine-use and prostitution during their cross-examination of Lpez's boyfriend and friends.

The teenager's father and one of his aunts have attended the hearing, but his mother, Miriam Mercado, has not come to court. Pedro Julio Serrano of Puerto Rico Para [email protected] criticized attempts to highlight Lpez's reported prostitution and drug use.

"We cannot allow anyone to indict a victim who is no longer alive and can no longer defend himself," he blogged. "We cannot forget there was a criminal who committed this hate crime: Juan Martnez Matos."

Puerto Rican authorities have said they plan to prosecute Martnez under the territory's hate crime statute, which includes sexual orientation. Prosecutors can only apply the law during sentencing, but Bryan applauded prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo.

"I think she's working a lot on this case," he said. "I am very satisfied by what she is doing."

Puerto Rican media outlets continue to follow the hearing closely. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other elected officials from the five boroughs and Chicago traveled to Puerto Rico last month to meet with Lpez's family, legislators and activists and to pressure Gov. Luis Fortuo to break his silence on the murder and to address anti-LGBT hate crimes on the island. Bryan said the gruesome details of Lpez's death continue to shock and disgust the Puerto Rican people.

"It was a very heinous crime," he said. "Jorge was a young, tender guy who didn't deserve to die this way; regardless of his orientation."

Bryan added LGBT Puerto Ricans will continue to follow the trial until justice is done for the teenager's family.

"The story is not going away," he said.

The hearing is scheduled to continue through next week.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.