Marcello Lucero liked playing volleyball and lifting weights. He rented movies with friends and called his mother in Ecuador several times a week. [CORRECTION: The victim in the Patchogue stabbing was Marcelo Lucero. His first name was misspelled in stories this week. Also, the teenagers accused in the death gathered at Twelve Pines Park in Medford. (A14 ALL 11/15/08)]
"Even though he'd been in the United States for 16 years, he always said, 'I miss home. I'm going back,'" his brother Joselo said yesterday. "Now he'll never be able to go home."
Friends in Patchogue found it both tragic and ironic that Lucero, 38, was stabbed to death Saturday night in what police describe as a hate crime. They describe him as a thoughtful, quiet man who avoided arguments and often went out of his way to help neighbors.
His landlady, Rosa Orellana, who knew Lucero when both were children in Ecuador, remembered the way he would greet her cheerily when he returned from working at a dry cleaner. As soon as snow started to fall, she said, he would shovel her walkways. "This is a guy who got along with everyone," she said. "I mean everyone."
Lucero was 10 when his father died of a heart attack. "Suddenly, he became the man of the house and had to help my mother raise three younger siblings," said his brother, also known as Efriam. "He never complained."
The family lived in the Andean mountains of Ecuador, and a sister left to become a resident of Queens. Marcello got a visa to come to the States, and was followed by his brother, who is four years younger. "There were so few opportunities at home," his brother said. "He wanted the American dream."
Lucero settled in a neighborhood next to downtown Patchogue that's favored by Ecuadoreans from the same region, known as Cuenca. He paid $500 for a room above Orellana's house. A friend, Cesar Angamarca, said that Marcello's life was "boring and predictable - go to work, then home, then back to work."
Another friend, Jose Morales, said Lucero rarely walked at night because he was afraid of being attacked by muggers who prey on Hispanics, but on Saturday he decided to walk a few blocks away to watch a movie at a friend's apartment. As Lucero passed Morales' house, he left a voice-mail message: "Hey, I'm outside." Morales was asleep, but his cell phone recorded the time of the call - 11:36 and 57 seconds - just minutes before Lucerno was killed.
Police blame a group of seven teenagers, who they say were looking to kill a Hispanic - any Hispanic.
Marcello Lucerno was elated by the election of Barack Obama last week, his brother said. "He saw it as a chance for people with brown skin to be seen as equals. Instead, my brother was killed because of his appearance."
Joselo added, "I want the maximum penalty for these guys, although that won't bring back my brother. They killed a beautiful man."