Jessica MercadoAge 24
9 May 2003
New Haven, Connecticut (USA)
TDoR list ref: tdor.info/9 May 2003/Jessica Mercado
Jessica was stabbed to death in her apartment. Her killer, 32-year-old Michael Streater, then set the bed and body on fire in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime.
In August 2004, Police said that the suspect was in custody on unrelated charges and admitted to police his involvement.
Detectives applied for an arrest warrant, and authorities did not release the suspect's name or age. He was jailed at the New Haven Correctional Center. Later he was identified via DNA and other evidence as Michael Streater.
The break in the case came more than a year after the brutal killing sent shock waves through the gay community. Some activists in the transgender community questioned whether the murder was a hate crime. Violence against the transsexual community nationwide, they said, was on the rise.
Mercado, who lived life as a woman, lived in a small studio apartment with two friends.
Police believe she was a sex worker and suspected from the beginning that a client might have been responsible for the slaying.
That theory panned out, police said. Mercado apparently went willingly with her killer to her apartment, where things later went terribly wrong.
After remaining unsolved for 15 months, the case had essentially gone cold. Recently, the case was revived. Detectives Edwin Rodriguez and Stephen Coppola handled the investigation.
It was about 3:30 a.m. May 9, 2003, when the Fire Department responded to the Chapel Street building. When they put out the small fire, firefighters discovered a body on a bed.
Mercado had been stabbed in the neck.
Friends and relatives described Mercado as a very social person who liked to go out to the clubs.
The victim's roommate told relatives that they went out to a nightclub a few hours before the killing and that Mercado had left with someone they didn't know. Police also received accounts that Mercado had gone with a friend for sex work that night and was picked up by a client.
Transgender advocates say it's not unusual for [trans women], lacking other options, to turn to sex work.
Friends and relatives said Mercado had moved from Puerto Rico in search of a better life. Mercado's sister, Mariluz Jimenez, lives in New Haven. She was not home Monday afternoon.
Family friend Marisol Boyer was taken aback by word of a possible arrest.
"That's great news. I heard that her mother had come from Puerto Rico and went to the Police Department demanding answers," she said. "I'm really glad."