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Teen charged with murder as hate crime in immigrant's death

  • Story Highlights
  • Jeffrey Conroy, 17, faces count of murder as a hate crime
  • Conroy had been charged with with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime
  • Conroy, six others tried "to find Latinos and to assault them," police say
  • Marcello Lucero, 37, and a friend were attacked by a group of teens
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A grand jury has indicted a Long Island teenager on a charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime in the stabbing death of an Ecuadoran immigrant this month, according to the indictment, unsealed Thursday in Suffolk County District Court.

Marcello Lucero, 37, was stabbed to death in an attack that police say was a hate crime.

Jeffrey Conroy, 17, had been charged with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, one count each of gang assault and conspiracy and two counts each of attempted assault and attempted gang assault.

The "hate crime" designation would add to any sentence imposed upon conviction.

Six teenage co-defendants were arraigned Thursday on the same assault, conspiracy and gang assault charges as Conroy. One of the six faces an additional charge of criminal mischief.

Marcello Lucero, 37, was walking to a friend's apartment in Patchogue, New York, when he was attacked late in the evening of November 8, police said. Officers found that he had been stabbed in the chest, and he died of his injuries. A friend with Lucero was not injured.

Authorities believe that Conroy stabbed Lucero. His arraignment on the murder charge is scheduled for Monday.

The seven youths were trying "to find Latinos and to assault them," Suffolk County Police Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said at the time.

"That was what they went out to do that night, and that's exactly what they did do. ... They were actively seeking victims," he said.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said all seven "admitted their involvement and their role in this crime. But all seven pleaded not guilty at their initial arraignment November 10.

Attorneys for two of the boys told CNN before the unsealing Thursday that their clients are not guilty and disputed the hate crime designation.

"Anthony Hartford had no physical contact with the unfortunate victim who was stabbed," attorney Laurence Silverman said. "My client denies he harbors any ill will toward any person because of race or national origin. My client comes from a mixed background. His great-grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico."

"Kevin Shea is not guilty," attorney Steven M. Politi said. "The charge that this was a racially motivated crime is inaccurate. ... These are young boys and should enjoy presumption of innocence, and I hope everyone reserves judgment until the facts come out."

The other defendants are Jordan Dasch, Nicholas Hausch, Christopher Overton and Jose Pacheco. All but Overton, who is 16, are 17 years old. Dasch also faces a charge of criminal mischief.

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