Florida man sentenced to life in prison for horrific murder of LGBTQ+ rights activist

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Florida man Steven R. Yinger has been sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of the murder of prominent LGBTQ+ rights activist Jorge Diaz-Johnston.

On Friday (15 December), a Leon County jury found Yinger, 38, guilty of a number of charges including first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, grand theft motor vehicle, grand theft, and criminal use of a personal identification number, CNN reports.

Yinger will now serve a life sentence in prison for the murder of his roommate Jorge Diaz-Johnson, 54, in January 2022.

The body of Diaz-Johnson, who was the brother of a former Miami mayor and was part of a successful lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, was discovered in a Jackson County landfill on 8 January.

Blue and white tape with the words 'police line do not cross' is used to guard an area where a crime – whether it is a hate crime rooted in homophobia or other attack – by police
A Florida man has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of LGBTQ+ activist Jorge Diaz-Johnson. (Getty)

Investigators determined that Diaz-Johnson had been strangled by a ligature and that his body. 

It is understood that his body had been wrapped in bed linens and dumped in the trash at his own home before his remains ended up in the landfill.

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When Diaz-Johnson’s husband Don Diaz-Johnson reported his disappearance, he told police that he had been planning to ask his roommate, Yinger, to move out because they hadn’t been getting along.

Don claimed that the two roommates had known each other from an alcohol recovery program and that Diaz-Johnson had taken Yinger in while separated from Don to help him get back on his feet.

“Jorge didn’t charge him rent, never had expectations, until he could get a job and support himself, and that’s who Jorge was,” Don had told WPLG at the time.

In April 2022, a grand jury indicted Yinger for first-degree murder, alleging that Yinger had strangled Diaz-Johnson at some point between 3 January and 5 January.

After the indictment verdict, Don told the local CNN affiliate: “I am so angry. After all those years trying to get my husband back, to have him ripped from me for such an utterly senseless reason.”

Shortly after Diaz-Johnson’s body was discovered, his brother Manny Diaz, who was mayor of Miami from 2001 to 2009, said in a statement: “I am profoundly appreciative of the outpouring of support shown to me, my brother-in-law Don, and my family after the loss of my brother, Jorge Diaz-Johnston. 

“My brother was such a special gift to this world whose heart and legacy will continue to live on for generations to come.

“I am also so very grateful to the Tallahassee Police Department- with the support of Mayor Daley and City Manager Reed- who have worked tirelessly to locate and investigate the circumstances surrounding my brother’s disappearance.

“Their commitment has meant the world to my family and will continue to mean the world in our search for justice. We ask for privacy and continued prayers.”

Following last week’s verdict and subsequent sentencing, Don Diaz-Johnson shared his “heartfelt gratitude” with the Tallahassee Police Department who worked on the case.

News of Diaz-Johnson’s murder made global headlines last year, due to his involvement in an LGBTQ+ rights case in Florida.

In 2014, Jorge and Don Diaz-Johnson were one of six couples who filed a suit against Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. The following year, a Miami-Dade circuit court ruled in the couples’ favour.