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Suspect pleads guilty in brutal slaying of gay teen in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The man accused of the brutal murder of a gay teenager in Puerto Rico last November pleaded guilty on Wednesday and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Mercado (left) was murdered by Matos on November 12, 2009

Juan José Martínez Matos, who had been scheduled to go on trial Monday for the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado, confessed to the crime during a hearing in Caguas, and told the court he understood the consequences of his actions, according to a report in Edge.

Prosecutors contend Martinez stabbed Lopez to death before he decapitated, dismembered and partially burned his body before dumping it along a remote roadside near Cayey on Nov. 12, 2009. The gay teenager’s murder sent shockwaves across Puerto Rico and around the world.

Matos, 26, a married father of four, confessed he was cruising the “red light” district of Caguas, a city south of San Juan, looking for women and picked up 19-year-old Mercado thinking he was a woman, a police report said. Matos allegedly went into a rage when he discovered that Lopez was a man.

The case had gained national attention because activists demanded that U.S. authorities prosecute it as a hate crime.

Thousands of people in San Juan, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities around the United States held vigils, marches and other events in the days following López’s death.

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