The Associated Press reported late Wednesday that Puerto Rico police have confirmed that the savage murder of 19 year-old Jorge Steven López is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
Juan Antonio Martínez Matos confessed on Wednesday to brutally murdering, decapitating and dismembering López on November 13.
If charged with a hate crime, the case could be the first ever to invoke new federal hate crimes legislation that protects victims on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.
The AP reported that Martínez Matos has already been interrogated by a local prosecutor who concluded the killing was in fact a hate-motivated crime. Charges have yet to be filed, however.
A suspect convicted of a hate crime offense as part of another crime automatically faces the maximum penalty for the underlying crime. For a murder charge, that would be life in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that it will assume jurisdiction over the case if it is deemed a hate crime by local law enforcement officials.
Vigils are being held across the nation in coming days to remember young López. For more information about a vigil in your area, please visit: http://mercado-vigil.tumblr.com/
GLAAD has reached out to the victim’s family, friends, and community members and will provide media training for various spokespeople who wish to tell Jorge’s story. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org