Patchogue hate-crime murder trial to begin Thursday

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One was a 37-year-old immigrant who worked at a dry cleaners, sending money to his mother in Ecuador and dreaming of the day he would return home. The other was a 17-year-old high school student, a popular athlete who had hopes of going to college and continuing to play sports.

Suffolk police say that, on the night of Nov. 8, 2008, Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death by Jeffrey Conroy, who authorities say was part of a group of teens who regularly went out looking for Latinos to harass. The death, and the international attention it drew, cast a harsh light on Patchogue and, in a larger sense, Suffolk County.

More than 16 months later, Conroy, now 19, will stand trial in a Riverhead courtroom on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as hate crimes, the only one in the group to face those charges. His is the first trial among a group of seven former Patchogue-Medford High School students charged in connection with Lucero's death; four already have pleaded guilty to first-degree gang assault and await sentencing.

At the trial, Conroy's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, is expected to raise questions about ambulance response time and the way Lucero was transported to the hospital.

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