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Man charged in death of Puerto Rico teen

Associated Press / November 19, 2009

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SAN JUAN - Murder charges were filed yesterday in the slaying of a gay teenager whose decapitated, partially burned body was found last week. US authorities said they were still considering whether to make it a hate crime case.

Gay activists expressed disappointment that the suspect wasn’t immediately charged with a hate crime, saying authorities in Puerto Rico have never invoked a law covering crimes based on sexual orientation.

The dismembered body of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. a 19-year-old college student, was discovered Friday along a road in the town of Cayey. Lopez was widely known as a volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights, and activists are planning vigils for him in San Juan, New York, and Chicago.

The suspect, Juan Martinez Matos, 26, was arrested earlier this week. He was charged with first-degree murder and weapons violations and jailed on $4 million bond.

It could not be immediately determined whether Martinez was represented by an attorney.

Martinez met Lopez while looking for women Thursday in an area known for prostitution, according to prosecutors.