Today was the first day of Jeff Conroy's trial. Conroy is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter, both as Hate Crimes, in the murder of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero. In a statement to police on the night of the crime, Conroy confessed to stabbing Lucero, saying he found the black folding knife used in the attack in a hotel room. Hours after the killing, Conroy asked how the case might affect the upcoming wrestling season, police said in pretrial testimony.
Family and friends of Conroy found it difficult to believe that Conroy committed the murder. To his friends, he was J.C. or J. Con, a three-sport athlete well known in the hallways of Patchogue- Medford High School. He liked rap music and watching sports, played lacrosse, football and wrestling, and helped his father coach a youth recreational league and raise money for a local booster club. For William Garcia, an Ecuadorean who graduated from Patchogue-Medford High last year, the struggle has been especially hard. "He (Jeff) was one of my closest friends; he was always there when I had a problem or something," said Garcia. Garcia said it was well-known at the high school that some students went to Patchogue to randomly beat up Latinos each week. But Garcia said as far as he knew, Conroy was not involved in that. "I don't really know what happened that night but I was really surprised about it," Garcia said. "Everything changes in a second."
Conroy's father refuses to believe his son was involved in the brutal murder of Marcelo Lucero. "Jeff is a good kid," said Robert Conroy , Jeffrey Conroy 's father. "He's a respectful athlete who helped when the budget failed. He was always there raising money, helping me." Of charges that Conroy targeted Latinos, his father balks, saying he never heard the term "beaner hopping" until District Attorney Thomas J. Spota said it in describing the term he said the teens used to describe their attacks on random Latinos. Conroy said his son - the third of six children - has friends, ex-girlfriends and even family members who are Latino."They know that what's been said out there absolutely is not true, that he's a racist. That's not Jeff. Anybody who ever got to know Jeff, they don't believe this happened." For Robert Conroy, the trial will be an opportunity for his son to clear his name. He never misses a jail visit to see his son, never misses a phone call. "I miss my son terribly," he said. "I'm anxious. I'm anxious to prove his innocence."
Suffolk County prosecutors will paint a vastly different picture of Conroy. They say on Nov. 8, 2008, when Conroy was a 17-year old high school senior, he fatally stabbed Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, on a Patchogue street. The stabbing was the culmination of a night of attacks on random Latino victims, according to prosecutors, capping a year of similar attacks by Conroy and his friends.