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Vigils commemorate murdered Gay teens
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Vigils commemorate murdered Gay teens

by James Whitely - SGN Contributing Writer

Around the country, from Gainesville, Florida to New York City, and even here in Seattle, solidarity vigils have been held to commemorate the lives of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado and Jason Mattison Jr., two teenage boys who were slain recently for being Gay.

Ten people gathered at Red Square at the University of Washington on November 23 at 5 p.m. to hold the only Seattle vigil for the two boys. A letter written by Mattison's teacher was read, and each participant shared their feelings about how these crimes made them feel and how to go about bringing change. "The night is darkest before the dawn," said one of the attendees. Everyone at the vigil hoped that that would be the case.

Mattison, 15, an openly Gay sophomore, attended the Vivien Thomas Medical Arts Academy in West Baltimore, a high school that prepares kids for careers in medicine. He was a model student, who loved his friends, and dreamed of being a pediatrician.

"He was not involved in any gangs, any violence, any weapons - it just wasn't him. He wanted no part of it," said Ryan Jones, one of his teachers. "Take every negative stereotype you have about Baltimore City and the crime and throw it out the window."

"Jason was one of the most popular kids at school," said Jones. "Always first to class, always first to the cafeteria, where students fought to sit at his table."

"You need to simply look at his exotic dress, flair for the dramatic in class and with friends, and talk to those who knew him to understand what a loss we have all been dealt," said Jones.

Mercado, 19, was well-known in the Gay community of Puerto Rico. In a video released online, Miriam Mercado, Mercado's Mother, expressed her gratitude for the national response to her son's killing.

"Love conquers hate, and this we have to shout to the world," said Miriam Mercado. Pushing back tears, she added, "I ask you and beg you, everyone in the world, that we should love everyone else no matter what's there."

Mattison's body was discovered on November 10. He was gagged, raped, stabbed to death and stuffed into a closet inside of his aunt's home in East Baltimore, allegedly by Dante Parrish, who had been released from prison after appealing a murder conviction.

Mercado was discovered on November 14, on an isolated road in the city of Cayey. He was partially burned, decapitated, and dismembered, at the arms, legs and torso. Never in the history of Puerto Rico has a murder been classified as a hate crime. The officer handling Mercado's case gave a public statement, saying, "people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen."

In both cases, the suspects have been apprehended. A Baltimore PD spokesman said Parrish confessed to killing Mattison and is being held without bail. On November 16, a suspect confessed to the killing of Mercado, saying that he murdered Marcado because he thought he was a woman. According to Puerto Rican police, the suspect will likely use a "homosexual panic" defense, arguing for a plea of temporary insanity.

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pictures: top Mercado
above: Mercado, Mattison
below: Mercado
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