News (USA)

Suspect arrested in brutal murder of gay Puerto Rican teen

Steven Jose Lopez MercadoA suspect has been arrested in the slaying of a 19-year-old Puerto Rican man, police said Tuesday.

Jorge Steven López Mercado (pictured) was found decapitated, dismembered and partially burned Friday in a wooded area near Cayey on the island of Puerto Rico.

“The brutality of the slaying and the fact that he was openly gay leads us to believe it was very possibly a hate crime,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

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Authorities are investigating whether the killing involved sex, Guayama police Commander Hector Agosto Rodriguez told WLII-TV.

Guayama prosecutor Jose Bermudez identified the suspect as John A. Martinez, 26.

Martinez was scheduled to attend a court hearing Tuesday night at which charges would be lodged, said Luis Bernier, a spokesman for the Guayama police district, which has jurisdiction in the case.

The U.S. attorney’s office, in consultation with local officials and other agencies, would determine if the slaying was a hate crime, which is a federal offense.

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, which means federal agencies have jurisdiction.

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