Judge sets trial date for gay Puerto Rican teenager’s alleged killer

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday February 22, 2010

A Puerto Rican judge has found probable cause to prosecute a man who prosecutors contend brutally murdered a gay teenager last November.

Judge Roberto Anglero announced earlier today Juan Jos Martnez Matos' trial will begin in Caguas on March 30. He denied a defense motion to lessen one of the charges against Martnez to second degree murder.

Prosecutors contend Martnez, who faces a first degree murder and three weapons charges, stabbed Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado to death on Nov. 12, 2009. They further allege the suspect decapitated, dismembered and partially burned Lpez's body before he dumped it along a remote roadside near Cayey.

Several of Lpez's friends and acquaintances have identified Martnez as the man with whom they last saw the teenager as EDGE reported on Feb. 6. Details of Lpez's reported drug use and prostitution emerged during the preliminary hearing, but Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force applauded prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo's handling of this case.

"She sent a very powerful message not to judge Jorge Steven; the person who should be judged is Juan Martnez Matos," he said.

Serrano also spoke with Lpez's family immediately after Anglero set the trial date.

"They're satisfied, but as they just told me, nothing will bring Jorge Steven back," he said. "It's a very emotional day for them because they are starting to see the beginning of justice, but the pain of losing a son-and losing a son in these circumstances is unbearable."

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.