Justice was delivered for Jorge Diaz-Johnston.
A Tallahassee man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing Diaz-Johnston, a Miami native and well-known marriage equality activist.
On Dec. 15, a Leon County jury found career con artist Steven Yinger, 38, guilty of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, grand theft motor vehicle, grand theft and criminal use of a personal identification number.
A paralegal and brother of former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Diaz-Johnston, 54, disappeared on Jan. 3, 2022. His body was discovered a few days later, wrapped in a bedsheet, at a Jackson County landfill.
In a Facebook post, Don Diaz-Johnston wrote his husband can finally rest in peace and thanked those who stood by him and the Diaz family “through this horrible ordeal.”
The couple were separated when Jorge met Yinger at an alcohol recovery program and offered him a free place to stay in his Tallahassee apartment. When Yinger refused to work, Diaz Johnston tried to throw him out, but was killed instead.
Yinger strangled Diaz-Johnston, stole his car and cell phone, and ran up his credit cards on a shopping spree. Assistant State Attorney Adrian Mood told jurors Yinger treated Diaz-Johnston “like a piece of garbage,” dumping his body in a bin for trash crews to unwittingly wheel away.
The jury needed only three days to convict, Yinger, a hardened criminal with a long rap sheet of burglaries and drug-related crimes, who had served time in state prison.
“What Jorge did was genuine Christian love to try to give this man a leg up and an opportunity,” Don Diaz-Johnston wrote in his victim impact statement. “And Jorge knew that level of kindness and generosity could thaw the coldest of hearts. But the truth is it can’t turn the blackest of hearts.”
In 2014, Jorge and Don were among six gay couples that sued the Miami-Dade County Clerk for the right to marry.
“Jorge was such a good guy with a powerful voice,” recalled Elizabeth Schwartz, an attorney on the groundbreaking case, Pareto v. Ruvin.
After the verdict, Don Diaz-Johnston released a statement thanking the Tallahassee Police Department’s homicide team, but acknowledged being named a suspect in his husband’s murder had a chilling effect.
“Emotionally, being named a suspect in a heinous crime can shatter a person’s mental and emotional well-being. The constant fear, anxiety and humiliation that accompany such accusations are unbearable,” Diaz-Johnston wrote.