As police continue their search for a ninth person suspected of being involved in several brutal attacks against three gay men in the Bronx, eight others were arraigned Sunday on hate crime charges.
Ruddy Vargas-Perez, 22, is still wanted by police -- the final suspect accused of torturing three people because of their sexuality.
They say he was supposed to turn himself in to the 46th Police Precinct, but never showed.
The suspects -- Elmer "Macho" Confresi, 23; Ildefonso Mendez, 23; David Rivera, 21; Nelson Falu, 18; three 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy -- all face assault and robbery charges as hate crimes.
Six are now being held without bail, including four who have been in trouble with the law before.
Bail was set at $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond for two of the defendants because lawyers say they had no prior arrests.
"There was no allegation that he participated in any sexual abuse or stole anything from any of the victims," said Paul Horowitz, the attorney for 17-year-old Steven Carabello, one of the suspects given bail. "He was just charged with punching one of them in the face and being present when the others did other things."
Family members said the suspects were not to blame for these extreme attacks.
"My son is innocent and I'm going to continue saying that. I'm going to continue coming to court 'cause I'm going to fight it, 'cause he is innocent and that's basically it," said Caroline Falu, the mother of defendant Nelson Palu.
The eight suspects are due back in court on Thursday.
Investigators say the nine suspects, who allegedly belong to the Latin King Goonies gang, took a 17-year-old potential recruit to a vacant apartment at 1910 Osborne Place in Morris Heights earlier this month.
Authorities say when the gang found out the teenager was gay, then forced him to strip, beat and slashed him and then sodomized him with a plunger handle.
They also questioned the teen about his relationship with a 30-year-old man.
After releasing the teen, police say the gang lured the older man and another 17-year-old who was romantically linked to him to the same apartment and tortured them.
The gang beat the man with chains and sodomized him with a small baseball bat and forced the second teen to burn the man with cigarettes.
Police say during the second attack, some of the suspects went to the 30-year-old man's home, where they attacked his older brother and stole cash, debit cards and a big-screen TV.
At a news conference Saturday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said several of the suspects implicated themselves.
Elected officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine, say the extremely violent attacks do not represent the city.
"The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts or the hatred that fuels them," said the mayor.
"The crimes that happened in the Bronx are unthinkably disturbing. It's hard to remember a crime in the City of New York that is more disgusting and sickening than what happened in the Bronx," said Quinn.
Residents near the site of the alleged attacks in Morris Heights were in disbelief that the crimes took place so close to their homes.
"My heart fell when I heard about it, because it's so sad someone has to go through that pain because of their sexuality," said a neighbor. "And it felt bad especially to know that it was so close to home."
Leaders in the gay community are looking for answers, after a series of recent series of anti-gay attacks in Manhattan, including the Stonewall Inn which is the birthplace of the gay rights movement, and the suicide of a Rutgers freshman whose gay sexual encounter was broadcast online.
"I think the reason that bias crime in general is on the rise is because we're in a horrible economy and people are looking for scapegoats," said gay rights activist Andy Humm. "And so, if they might have repressed some of their prejudices before, now they're looking for somebody to blame or hurt."
Anyone with information about the final suspect is being asked to contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-577-TIPS, by texting TIP577 to CRIMES, or by going to NYPDCrimeStoppers.com.