Another possible anti-LGBT murder in Puerto Rico

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday September 13, 2010

Puerto Rican authorities continue to investigate the death of two transgender women found dead on a local highway.

El Nuevo Día reported local police discovered the bodies of "two men who were dressed in women's clothes" along Highway 512 in Juana Díaz around 2:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 13. The newspaper said both victims, who were between 20- and 25-years-old, were shot in the head.

El Nuevo Día further reported authorities arrested a 28-year-old man in connection with the murders after they found blood and human tissue inside his car. Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force urged Puerto Rican authorities to investigate the deaths as hate crimes.

"At the very least it is probable that these crimes could have been motivated by prejudice based on the victims' sexual orientation or gender identity," he said in a statement. "The authorities have an obligation under the law to investigate this hate angle."

There have been 682 homicides in Puerto Rico so far this year, but these murders are the latest to spark concern among LGBT Puerto Ricans. Ashley Santiago Ocasio was stabbed to death in her Corozal home in April. And Juan José Martínez Matos stabbed Jorge Steven López Mercado to death before he decapitated, dismembered and partially burned the gay teenager's body in Nov. 2009.

As EDGE previously reported, a judge sentenced Martínez to 99 years in prison after he confessed he killed López. Serrano, who has maintained Puerto Rican authorities have not adequately applied the island's hate crime statutes, which includes both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, stressed they must investigate the Juana Díaz murders as such.

"We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately and quickly investigate this double murder and to classify them... as hate crimes if they discover enough evidence to determine it was motivated by prejudice," he said.

The victims and the man who allegedly murdered them have not been identified.

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.