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Conroy's mother testifies in his defense at trial

Lori Conroy leaves court during a break. (March

Lori Conroy leaves court during a break. (March 24, 2010) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The mother of a teenager accused of fatally stabbing an Ecuadorean immigrant in Patchogue testified Friday at her son's murder trial that he told her he did not commit the crime.

Lori Conroy, 38, a Sunday school teacher, calmly explained how she learned that her son, Jeffrey, 19, had been arrested in the Nov. 8, 2008, stabbing death of Marcelo Lucero, 37, of Patchogue. She said she had never seen her son carry a knife.

Under questioning in Suffolk County Court by her son's attorney, William Keahon, she said her son was supposed to sleep over at a friend's that night and that she had asked him to call her when he got there, but she didn't hear from him.

Around 1:30 p.m. the next day, she said, the phone rang and her husband picked it up. It was Jeffrey, saying he had been arrested and charged with manslaughter. The charges later were upgraded to include second-degree murder as a hate crime.

"Come down here right away," Conroy testified that her son said.

Conroy said she and her husband went to the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue but were not permitted to speak to their son.

On Nov. 12, 2008, the Conroys visited him in jail.

"He said 'Mom,' he said, 'I did not do this. I was just trying to help out this kid,' " Lori Conroy testified.

On Thursday, Jeffrey Conroy testified the boy he was trying to help was Christopher Overton, 17, of East Patchogue. Conroy said Overton stabbed Lucero.

Overton and Conroy had met for the first time just hours before the stabbing and were in a group of seven boys who authorities said went out searching for Hispanics to attack.

Conroy testified he took the blame for the stabbing because he felt sorry for Overton. He said the teen begged him to take the knife because Overton had been involved in a home invasion case and didn't want police to find him with a weapon.

Conroy, Overton and five other teenagers, including Nicholas Hausch, 18, of Medford, have all been implicated in the attack on Lucero, but only Conroy was charged with stabbing the man.

There also was a surprise witness Friday - Arturo Perez of Medford. Perez said he saw a group of teenagers emerging from a wooded area near a fenced-in garden nursery close to his house on the night Lucero was slain.

Perez's testimony seemed to cast some doubt on part of Jeffrey Conroy's statements Thursday.

Perez said he recognized Hausch, his neighbor, in the group coming out of the woods. Perez said he did not know the other boys.

Hausch testified earlier in the trial that he, Conroy and five other teens went to a fenced-in "sump" area near his home early on the night of Nov. 8 to find homeless Hispanics to attack but didn't see any. Later, Hausch said, they went to Patchogue.

But Conroy testified that he and his friends did not stop near Hausch's house to look for Hispanics.

With Carl MacGowan

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