By Daryl Hannah, GLAAD Media Field Strategist
Juan Martinez Matos, the man accused of decapitating a gay teenager in Puerto Rico and burning his body, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges on Wednesday and immediately received a 99-year prison sentence.
Matos has been in the media spotlight after he brutally murdered Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado (pictured above), a 19-year-old college student and HIV prevention and gay rights volunteer. Matos told police that he hated “homosexuals” and had lured Lopez Mercado into having sex with him, according to the Associated Press.
At the hearing on Wednesday, Lopez Mercado’s family expressed bittersweet sentiments regarding Matos’ plea:
“We are able to find a bit of peace in this aspect, but it is not going to return Steven,” Myriam Mercado said. “But at least there is justice in Puerto Rico,” she continued, reports Edge.
Lopez Mercado’s murder prompted anti-violence vigils in San Juan, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and numerous other cities.
GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios spoke at the vigil in New York.
GLAAD will continue to monitor the media coverage of this story.