Who's to Blame for Marcello's Murder?

When asked to comment on his relations with the Hispanic community and his comments regarding the Lucero murder, Levy's spokesman said that the county executive "has consistently denounced this heinous act."

"This is not a time for politics, finger-pointing or a debate on the issue of illegal immigration," the spokesman said.

But Ramirez said the fact that Levy uttered those words at all "shows you an insight into his thinking ... how he views this community."

And there's no question in the pastor's mind that Levy and his policies bear at least some of the responsibility for what happened to Lucero.

"He, along with those seven young men, has blood in his hands," Ramirez said.

The seven teens have been charged and arraigned. The alleged ringleader, Jeffrey Conroy, 17, of Medford, N.Y., was charged with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and first-degree gang assault. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at the Suffolk County jail.

The remaining suspects, all charged with first-degree gang assault, pleaded not guilty and were assigned bond options. They are: Jordan Dasch, 17, Anthony Hartford, 17, Nicholas Hausch, 17, and Kevin Shea, 17, all of Medford, N.Y., as well as Christopher Overton, 16, and Jose Pacheco, 17, both of East Patchogue, N.Y.

Conroy's family could not be reached and his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment. Lawyers for Shea, Hartford, Kirby, Overton and Hausch told Newsday that their clients were not involved in the stabbing, while Conroy's lawyer told the newspaper that the high school athlete was not a racist.

Hoping for Something Better

Joselo Lucero said his brother came to the United States 16 years ago to make a better life for himself. He was always, his brother said, looking to improve his life -- always working, always saving his money from his job at a dry cleaning business.

"If he has 10 bucks, he thinks he's going to make it 20, no matter what," Joselo Lucero said, adding that his brother had recently talked about wanting to start a transportation business.

For fun, Marcello Lucero played volleyball and doted on a prized blue bicycle he rode everywhere.

The Lucero brothers and their sister all lived in the area, with their youngest sister and mother still living in Ecuador. Joselo remembered his older brother teasing him as a child, but being fiercely protective of him around others, so much so that Joselo said he was nervous going to middle school alone once the elder Lucero brother moved on to a different school.

Lucero was also a loving uncle, so proud of his youngest sister's young son, also his godson.

"He said ... 'Whatever I don't have, I have to give it to him,'" Joselo said.

Though many eyes are on Patchogue now, it's certainly not the only hotbed of anti-Hispanic sentiment.

Sergio Rodriguez, executive director of the Manhattan-based Hispanics Across America, said many Americans don't care to discern between illegal immigrants and Hispanics who are here legally. And being illegal, he said, doesn't mean the person will steal or rape or murder.

He said he understands why Americans get frustrated when school populations jump from 800 to 1,200 when many of the parents are undocumented and not paying taxes to fund their children's educations.

But the illegal immigrants tend to be poorly educated with no grasp of American law. They cut corners to find work and make ends meet.

"But they're not doing it to be malicious," Rodriguez said.

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