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Gay man stabbed to death in Belize, family says it’s a ‘hate crime’

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
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BELIZE CITY, Belize — A gay man was stabbed to death and dumped on the side of a street in Belize City early Sunday morning, and family members are calling it a “hate crime.”

Joseph Jatnel Sanchez

Joseph Jatnel Sanchez

When police initially found the body with a chest wound around 1:50 a.m., they thought the victim was a woman, as he was dressed in a white sleeveless blouse and a short green and black skirt.

Only later was the victim identified as 18-year-old Joseph Jatnel Sanchez, a gay man who was well known locally to dress in female attire.

Police say their initial investigations revealed that Sanchez was walking alone when two men approached and tried to rob him.

The robbers stabbed Sanchez with a butcher knife before fleeing, police said. Sanchez was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Sanchez’s family is disputing the police’s theory, and claim Sanchez is a victim of a hate crime and that he was frequently harassed and threatened because he often dressed in women’s clothing.

In an interview with Amandala, family members said that police “theory does not hold water because his cell phone and money were not stolen.”

The victim’s mother, Virginia Thomasa Arzu, said Sanchez got a phone call an hour before he ventured out, from a man her son knew, and suspects her son was lured to an ambush.

Leading human rights attorney Lisa M. Shoman said Sanchez rarely ventured out of his home except for work, out of fear from constant death threats due to his attire.

“Belize has one of the highest rates of violent crime per capita, but this was not ‘mere’ robbery, except in the sense that he was robbed of his life,” said Shoman.

“A young person was killed and his identity clearly played a role,” she said.

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