A woman who says she was a friend of a gay man whose body was found on July 8 on a roadway in Sterling, Va,. and whose death has been listed as a homicide told a local newspaper she believes her friend was the victim of a hate crime based on his sexual orientation.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the case, released a statement saying 24-year-old Jose I. Escobar Menendez, a resident of Winchester, Va., was found dead in a roadway along Emerald Point Terrace near Winding Road in the Sterling area around 3:30 a.m.
The Sheriff’s Office initially declined to disclose the cause of death other than saying it was a homicide and the office has not disclosed that Menendez was gay or that the incident may be a hate crime. But this week Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Michele Bowman told the Washington Blade the cause of death was a gunshot wound.
In response to a question from the Blade about whether the murder was a possible hate crime, Bowman stated in an email message, “This case is still under active investigation and we continue to explore all avenues.”
Bowman said the Sheriff’s Office would not disclose at this time whether a suspect has been identified. In a separate statement, the office has called on anyone with information about the case to call Det. M. Grimsley at 703-777-1021.
“We know it was a homicide, but no one has any idea what his whereabouts were that night or with whom,” the Loudoun Times-Mirror quoted the friend of Menendez as saying in a Twitter posting. “He was murdered & we believe it was due to his sexuality…We think he met up with someone off of a dating app…,” the newspaper quoted her Tweet as saying.
The Times-Mirror, which did not identify the female friend by name, said she told the paper Menendez “was an amazing friend” of hers. “He was always that person to hype you up. He just wanted everyone to have a good time,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.
According to the Times-Mirror, the friend also declined to disclose how Menendez died but said his body was in “very bad shape.”
Ricky Alvarenga, who identified himself as Menendez’s cousin in a GoFundMe page he created to help raise money for Menendez’s funeral expenses, said in a message that an outpouring of support by contributors exceeded the fundraising goal.
“We still need answers and we will find JUSTICE FOR JOSE,” he wrote in his GoFundMe message.
Winchester, Va., where the Sheriff’s Office says Menendez lived, is located a little over 48 miles west of Sterling, where Menendez’s body was found. Sheriff’s spokesperson Bowman told the Blade Menendez arrived in Sterling in a vehicle but did not say whether investigators know why he went to Sterling, which is located about 28 miles west of D.C.