Arrests have been announced in the case of the bodies of two transwomen found in a burnt-out car in Puerto Rico. Previously, the two men had been wanted for questioning, as they had been seen in the last photos that the two victims had shared on social media. Now the men have been arrested, one of them has confessed to the murders – the other is said to have helped to dispose of the bodies.

Captain Teddy Morales announced Thursday that the FBI had taken over the case. This followed continuing protests by queer activists. The two suspects Juan Carlos Pagán Bonilla (21) and Sean Diaz de León (19) have already been handed over to the FBI. According to agents of the US central security agency, the evidence suggests that a hate crime is very likely.

Bonilla, a bakery employee, has already confessed to the murders. His motive, as feared by many activists: Transphobia. Bonilla and his friend de Leon are said to have spent the evening together with the women. When they were in Velazquez’s house, the two men found out that the women were transgender – Bonilla admitted that he freaked out and killed the two young women.

Although every US state has its own definitions of what counts as a hate crime and which characteristics enjoy the special protection of the law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed by Barack Obama has been in effect since 2009. On the basis of this act, all crimes whose motives are based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of a victim are punished with particular severity in all states as well as in the US territories like Puerto Rico. People with physical disabilities and members of the military are also protected by the law.

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