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Florida Murder Trial Begins of Marriage Equality Pioneer Whose Body Was Found in a Landfill

steven yinger mugshot jorge diaz johnston Marriage Equality activist
Images: Florida Dept. of Corrections; facebook @don.johnston.1612

The strangled body of Jorge Diaz-Johnson was found a few days after he vanished dumped among trash.

The man accused of killing Jorge Diaz-Johnston, an LGBTQ+ activist who was a plaintiff in a 2015 case that recognized marriage equality in Miami-Dade County, appeared in a Florida courtroom on Thursday.

Diaz-Johnston, a 54-year-old paralegal, vanished from Tallahassee on January 3, 2022. His body was discovered amid the trash of a nearby landfill the following Saturday.

Steven Yinger, 36, was charged with first-degree murder, grand theft, grand theft of a motor vehicle, tampering with evidence, and criminal use of a personal ID, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Diaz-Johnson met Yinger, who was on parole from prison, through an alcohol recovery program and was letting him live rent-free while Yinger found a job and got back on his feet financially.

“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 Johnston, Diaz-Johnston’s husband, told local TV station WPLG last year.

Police believe Diaz-Johnston was strangled to death sometime between January 3 to January 5. They believe his body was wrapped in a bed sheet and placed into a trash dumpster, which was subsequently picked up by a sanitation crew and taken to a landfill in neighboring Jackson County.

Diaz-Johnston’s work reported him missing on January 7 after he failed to show up that week. His body was found the following day.

Yinger has a lengthy record of convictions for burglary and drug charges. He was arrested on January 12 on non-related charges and held without bail. He was indicted for the murder in April of 2022.

Yinger was an early initial suspect in the investigation. He told police he hadn’t seen Diaz-Johnston in days.

“[Yinger] appeared ‘weird’ as if he was not telling the full truth about something,” the officers wrote in their report, according to the Democrat.

Diaz-Johnston and his husband were one of six couples who successfully sued the Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office after the office denied them marriage licenses in 2014.

The couple had been separated just before the Diaz-Johnston’s murder, although the pair had reconciled.

Before his arrest, Yinger was twice cited for driving on a suspended license, including once in a vehicle belonging to Diaz-Johnston. In a handwritten four-page letter sent from prison to Don Diaz-Johnson, Yinger wrote that he was “sorry for everything” but denied killing Jorge.

The trial is expected to continue this week with jury selection. Yinger faces up to life in prison if convicted.

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