Suspect in gay Puerto Rican teenager’s murder ordered to undergo psychological evaluation

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday December 9, 2009

A Puerto Rican judge has ordered the man who has reportedly confessed to the gruesome murder of a gay teenager last month to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Juan A. Martnez Matos, 26, whom local media have also identified as Juan Jos "Gasper" Martnez Torres, has reportedly confessed he murdered Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado, 19, on Nov. 13 in a moment of "gay panic." Matos allegedly decapitated, dismembered and partially burned the teen's body before he dumped it along a road near Cayey.

Matos is scheduled to return to a Caguas court on Jan. 13, but Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force was quick to express his anger over the evaluation.

"This is outrageous," he told EDGE earlier today. "The reality is we're seeking justice and we will not rest until this process is done without prejudice."

Matos remains in custody on $4 million bail as EDGE reported on Nov. 19. Local authorities have agreed to investigate Lpez's murder as a hate crime. The territory's hate crime statutes include sexual orientation, but local activists maintain local prosecutors remain extremely reluctant to apply them.

Serrano told EDGE local prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo has assured him and the slain teen's family she will "work the case as a hate crime. Meanwhile, he added he feels Lpez's family remains "very strong and very loving."

"They just want justice done," Serrano said.

The family continues to receive support and encouragement from Puerto Ricans and others around the country and beyond.

Puerto Rican singer Olga Taon is the latest in a series of celebrities who have spoken out against Lpez's murder and the homophobia that reportedly incited it.

"Look, to be gay is nothing bad," she said to Primera Hora earlier this week as translated from Spanish. "Sexual orientation is nothing bad, and it shouldn't be used as a reason to castigate or discriminate."

Taon is the latest Puerto Rican celebrity to speak out against homophobia in the wake of Lpez's gruesome murder in Cayey last month. Actress Denise Quiones and reggaeton singer Ren Prez both attended an anti-homophobia rally and vigil in San Juan on Nov. 25.

"As artists, it is our responsibility to send the correct message: a message of unity, of tolerance, of acceptance, of respect for any way of being," Taon said.

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.