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On eve of trial's start, family recalls Lucero's life

Slaying victim Marcelo Lucero's brother Joselo Lucero, left,

Slaying victim Marcelo Lucero's brother Joselo Lucero, left, mother Rosario, and sister Isabel, attend a service at St. Francis Church in Patchogue to mark the first anniversary since Marcelo was killed. (Nov. 8, 2009) Credit: Newsday File / Audrey C. Tiernan

The last can of energy drink that Marcelo Lucero drank in his car before he was killed in November 2008 still sits in a holder beneath the dashboard. Nearby is a box of Tylenol.

His brother, Joselo Lucero, 35, of Patchogue, who inherited the car, refuses to remove the items. It is one small way of keeping the memory of his older brother alive.

Joselo Lucero was going to sell the gray 2001 Acura, "but my mom told me to keep it, just to remember him." Still, he did not start to drive it until two months ago.

The Luceros' mother, Rosario, lives in the dream house Marcelo built for her in Gualaceo, Ecuador - a house Marcelo had hoped to soon move into himself after 15 years in the United States. His plans were cut short when, Suffolk prosecutors charged, he was attacked by seven teenagers in Patchogue and stabbed to death by Jeffrey Conroy in what police labeled a hate crime. He was 37.

Thursday, Conroy's trial on murder charges is scheduled to begin in a Riverhead courtroom.

Lucero's death was a tragic end to a difficult life. He grew up poor - at times his family barely had enough food to eat, his sister, Isabel Lucero, has said.

His father, Urbano Lucero, died of a heart attack when Marcelo was 8 years old. The son took on the duties of a parent, becoming a father figure to Joselo and Isabel, and something of a head of the household.

By 13, Marcelo Lucero left school and took on jobs including shoemaking. By the time he turned 17 he was obsessed with the idea captivating many of his friends: immigrating to the United States to give his family a better life.

At 22, he was able to leave his hometown when he and some of his friends hired "coyotes," or smugglers, to bring them north.

He first landed in Queens, then made his way to Patchogue and a growing community of immigrants from Gualaceo. He worked two jobs at times, including at a dry cleaner, and called his mother several times a week.

"In some ways, it was a lonely life," Joselo Lucero said.

Now, as Conroy's trial begins, Lucero's family is nervous, exhausted, and anxious to see justice carried out. Time has not healed the wound, they say, and in some ways they are worse than ever.

"In some ways I don't have hope here anymore," Joselo Lucero, 35, said as he sat in the Acura parked at a favorite spot of his brother's - the docks on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue overlooking the Great South Bay. "I don't have the dream. My hopes have collapsed. Everything has fallen apart."

Rosario and Isabel Lucero had hoped to join him for the start of the trial but could not get visas in time. Now they must wait for a new appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador early next month.

Joselo Lucero is wracked by emotional pain and second thoughts. "I wish I could stop time and go back two or three days before it happened and tell him how much I loved him," he said. "I never had a chance to say goodbye. He died by himself. He died in the street."

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