ROCHESTER — The day after 48-year-old Hector Merced was brutally murdered, members of the Cathedral Community mourned alongside members of Merced’s family and friends during a tear-filled candlelight vigil at Sacred Heart Cathedral Nov. 18.
Merced was beaten and left to die on the porch of a vacant house at 344 Flower City Park only a few porches away from the cathedral, 296 Flower City Park. On Nov. 20, Rochester police charged two Rochester residents, Merlin Sage, 27, and Damion Clarke, 29, with second-degree murder in connection with Merced’s death, and both pleaded not guilty in City Court the same day.
“We pray tonight, tomorrow and in the weeks ahead that Hector has not died in vain,” Father John Mulligan, Cathedral Community pastor and one of two diocesan vicars general, said during the Nov. 18 vigil.
Participants in the service, including Bishop Matthew H. Clark, were bundled in hats and gloves and sang "Amazing Grace" as the smell of burnt wicks and melted wax filled the air. As familiar Scripture readings reminded participants of their responsibility for others, Father Mulligan urged them to seek peace, not vengeance.
“Share our hope or promise tonight that we do indeed care,” he said. “We deplore and object to any violence.”
After the vigil, Merced’s family members said they believe a group of people jumped him. According to Rochester police, it appears a verbal altercation took place between Merced and a group of individuals about 3 a.m. Nov. 17.
“It just happened so suddenly,” said Jon Diaz of Rochester, whose girlfriend is Merced’s niece.
According to police, the suspects fled on food after beating Merced. Police responded to the area after receiving a report of a male who was unconscious and had been beaten. Police have asked that anyone with details on the incident to call 911.
Merced’s sister Marisol Carrasquillo begged for people to come forward and to help police with the investigation.
“We just want to see justice served because his death was unjustified,” she said.
Whether they knew Merced or not, many at the vigil said they decided to attend to show their support.
“I thought it was important to support the family and to show the community and the neighborhood that we care,” said Cathedral Community member Mary Jo Moonan.
When Debra Pecorella’s mother died in August, she said her best friend — Merced’s son — was there by her side, and she in turn wanted to support him in his time of need.
“He was right there with me, so it was important that I show the same respect to his father,” Pecorella said.
Merced’s murder was one of three from the weekend. Father Mulligan also remembered 16-year-old Christopher Jones of Rochester, who was found shot in the chest the evening of Nov. 17 at Lexington Avenue and Pierpont Street, which is several blocks away from the Cathedral Community’s Holy Rosary Parish.
The next day, police announced they had arrested Deshequan L. Nathan, 16, of 125 Pierpont St., with the shooting death of Jones, 16, of 263 Lexington Ave. Officers said later they had traced a vehicle at the scene to Lockport, where they found Nathan. During an arraignment Nov. 19, Nathan pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder.
Father Mulligan also prayed for Jeffrey Mullin, 23, of Rochester, who was found shot in a car that police had stopped for erratic driving the afternoon of Nov. 18 at Maple Street and Mt. Read Boulevard. A passenger in the car also had been shot in the thigh, police said. Both were transported to Strong Memorial Hospital, where Mullin was pronounced dead.
Police said the actual scene of the shooting occurred at University Avenue and East Main Street, where the victims and two unidentified males had an argument prior to shots being fired.