Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

U.S. Marine Charged in Murder of Philippine Transgender Woman

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted to a shipmate, "I think I killed a he/she."

Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton admitted to a shipmate, “I think I killed a he/she.”

Manila, Republic of the Philippines – A United States Marine has been formally charged with the October murder of a transgender Filipina, according to The Washington Post.  Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19, had “probable cause” and employed “treachery, abuse of superior authority and cruelty” against his victim, Jennifer Laude, lead prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos said in a televised statement. Ms. Laude’s body was found naked with her head submerged in a toilet. “You can see the kind of cruelty she endured, the injuries she sustained,” de los Santos said. “We believe we have a strong case.”

Pfc. Pemberton, who was identified in a line up by two witnesses, will not be allowed to post bail.

The murder took place in a flop house hotel in the port city of Olongapo, northwest of Manila. The police autopsy concluded that Ms. Laude died of “asphyxia from drowning.” Filipino Transgender Rights Advocates are calling the killing “a hate crime,” according to USA Today, among them Gender Proud and the Asia and Pacific Transgender Network. The attorney for the family, Henry Roque, concurred. “This is not an ordinary murder. This is heinous because she was beaten up,” he said.

The evening of October 12, Pemberton and other Marines went to a disco bar and picked up partners for the night. Lance Corporal Jairn Michael Rose, who had accompanied Pemberton at the start of the evening, testified that upon return to the ship, Pemberton confided to him that he had strangled his date when he found out she was transgender. Rose is quoted by the Associated Press as saying Pemberton admitted, “I think I killed a he/she.” 

Prosecutors say that Pemberton, an accomplished boxer, said that he had choked Laude from behind “for a couple of minutes,” and when she stopped moving, he dragged her body into the bathroom.

The alleged murder comes at a particularly delicate time in regard to charges brought against U.S. military personnel for attacks on Philippine nationals. The United States is seeking renewed and strengthened ties with the Philippines as the allies try to counter Chinese incursions in the South China Sea. A recently signed defense accord allows the U.S. military greater access to Filipino military bases.

Pemberton was part of 3,500 U.S. Marines brought to the massive Subic Bay Naval Station to participate in military exercises with the Philippine military. He was held aboard a U.S. Navy ship until massive anti-American protests prompted U.S. officials to transfer him to Philippine soil to the main base of the Philippine military in metro Manila, but still in American custody. The Foreign Ministry of the Philippine government issued a statement saying that they look “forward to the full cooperation of the U.S. government in ensuring that justice is secured for Laude.” 

December 15, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Hate Crimes, Republic of the Philippines, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay NC Church Members Indicted for Kidnapping and Assaulting a Gay Man

Matthew Fenner, Gay Christian, kidnapped, beaten, and strangled to free him from "demon possession."

Matthew Fenner, Gay Christian, kidnapped, beaten, and strangled to free him from “demon possession.”

Spindale, North Carolina – Five members of a controversial church in rural Western North Carolina have been indicted for felony anti-gay kidnapping and assault on a 21-year-old gay man. A grand jury indicted Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley on second degree kidnapping and assault charges. A fifth person, Sarah Covington Anderson, was indicted on Monday, December 8 on second degree kidnapping as well as simple assault and assault by strangulation, according to QNotes. Matthew Fenner, currently an anthropology student a the University of North Carolina, told the Associated Press that he was surrounded by members of the Word of Faith Fellowship and attacked on January 27, 2013. Fenner brought the charges against his assailants, he said, because he was one of several others who had been victimized by the church in recent years, and his attackers made him fear for his life. As Fenner said to WRAL News“The line between religion and abuse, they are crossing it quite severely. That’s why I’m doing this. They have to know you cannot hurt people.” An attorney for the five indicted church members claims that Fenner’s charges are unfounded and “a complete fabrication.”

In a period of self-questioning and self-doubt about his sexual orientation, Fenner and his mother joined the 750-member Rutherford County church and started to attend the church’s school, he said.  “My mom and I were always really close and I just thought maybe I can keep an open mind and see if it works — see if I can change. Obviously, that was really a stupid decision because you can’t change who you are. But in my mind it seemed like the right thing to do,” he told the AP. Fenner worked as a tutor and attended church services. He said that when church members began to suspect he was gay, incidents of harassment began against him.

The church has become a flash point of controversy in the Spindale community, exercising strong influences upon the social and political life of this small town 63 miles southeast of Asheville. WRAL reports that former church members say the congregation’s leadership tries to control many aspects of its membership’s lives, including personal dressing habits, where to live and work, and when to have sexual relations with their spouses. In 2012, another gay man, Michael Lowry, accused members of the church with assaulting him for being gay, but later recanted his claims, a pattern of abusive control sometimes seen when individuals are intimidated for bringing charges against anti-gay congregations. Lowry, no longer a member of the church, now says he was manipulated into retracting his accusations. National gay and lesbian rights advocacy groups have criticized the Word of Faith Fellowship for abusing several young men for being gay whose parents were members of the church. Control over members thoughts and ideas even caused Fenner’s own mother and brother, who are members of the church, to disbelieve his account of the attack, and to testify against him in court proceedings. But Fenner would not be dissuaded from pressing for justice in his case, even though it took nearly two years for authorities to take him seriously and bring the indictments against his alleged assailants.

Suspects indicted for attacking, kidnapping Matthew Fenner. Left to right: Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Justin Covington, Adam Bartley and Brooke Covington.

Suspects indicted for attacking, kidnapping Matthew Fenner. Left to right: Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Louis Walker Jr., Justin Covington, Adam Bartley and Brooke Covington.

The church practices “deliverance,” a ritual including “blasting,” high-pitched screaming prayers and thumping suspected gay people to liberate them from their “demons of homosexuality.” Fenner testified that three members of the church asked him to join them at the back of the sanctuary at the evening service on January 27, 2013, but were soon joined by 15 to 20 other church members who commenced the attack upon him. They held him against his will for over two hours, forcing him into a chair and threatening him with confinement in the sanctuary if he did not “confess his sins.”  Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley allegedly beat him physically and forced him down into the chair while other members surrounded and screamed at him to stop resisting. In a police affidavit, Fenner testified, “By this point, Sarah [Covington Anderson] began to tell me how much she couldn’t stand to be around me and that I was disgusting because of my sexual orientation. I told her that I was sorry that I didn’t know what she wanted me to tell her and to which she then slapped me with a great amount of force across my left cheek. At this point I was really starting to get scared.” He identified Covington Anderson as the assailant who strangled him about the neck. As Fenner told WSPA Channel 7 News“My head was like being flung back, my vision was going brown and black. I couldn’t breathe and I’m sitting here thinking if I don’t get out of this, I’m probably going to die.” 

Covered in bruises on his collarbone, neck, chest, and shoulders, Fenner finally got free of the assault, and ran to his grandmother’s home. His own mother refused to believe his account of what had happened to him. But Brent Childers of the North Carolina-based advocacy group, Faith In America, has no doubt that what unfolded on that night was nothing less than religious-based bigotry. “It’s pretty clear to me,” Childers told WRAL, “that these individuals wanted to inflict pain on Matthew because of his sexual orientation.”

Josh Farmer, the church’s attorney, says he looks forward to a jury trial to demonstrate that no one carried out any physical harm to Fenner. But that is not preventing this determined young man from pressing forward with the case because he knows it is the right thing to do. “This is the only way that I can get my voice out there to say look, this kind of stuff is happening. It happened to me and it just kind of sheds some light onto the things that are going on in there and that people do know, but can’t really have the facts to go with it,” Fenner said to reporters from WSPA Channel 7.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Faith In America, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, kidnapping, LGBTQ, North Carolina, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, Word of Faith Fellowship | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Breaking News: FBI Issues Hate Crimes Stats for 2013

FBI Hate stats, 2013Washington, DC – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued its 2013 hate crimes statistics today: Hate Crime Statistics, 2013, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s first publication to present data collected under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009. A snapshot of the findings may be garnered from the press release that may be accessed here. Hate Crimes against persons because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender non-conformity comprised over one fifth of the total. 20.2 percent were targeted because of anti-sexual orientation bias, 0.3 percent for anti-gender bias, and 0.5 percent for anti-gender identity bias. 1,461 persons were victimized because of bias against sexual orientation.

To be a gay man, or to be perceived as a gay man, remains the most dangerous sexual orientation identification in the United States. 60.9 percent were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-gay (male) bias. 22.5 percent were victims of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (mixed group) bias. 13.1 percent were victims of anti-lesbian bias. 1.8 percent were victims of anti-bisexual bias. 1.6 percent were victims of anti-heterosexual bias.

Anti-sexual orientation hate crimes add up to the second largest hate crime category reported by the FBI this year. First in number are anti-racial hate crimes, and third in number are hate crimes based on antipathy of one’s religion. A staggering 7,242 persons in the United States were victims of hate crimes last year. Five murders and 21 rapes (15 from agencies that collected data using the revised rape definition and 6 from agencies that used the legacy definition) were reported as hate crimes. While FBI data are collected from cooperating law enforcement agencies around the country, most experts agree that the numbers of hate crimes reported are a severe undercount.

Most hate crime incidents (31.5 percent) occurred in or near residences/homes. More than 18 percent (18.1) occurred on highways/roads/alleys/streets/sidewalks; 8.3 percent occurred at schools/colleges; 5.7 percent happened at parking/drop lots/garages; and 3.5 percent took place in churches/synagogues/temples/mosques. The location was considered other/unknown for 13.2 percent of hate crime incidents. The remainder of hate crime incidents took place at other specified or multiple locations.

The complete FBI report may be accessed here, complete with tables and commentary.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | 2013 Hate Crimes Statistics, Bisexual persons, FBI, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

California Boy Bullied for Being “Fag Cheerleader”; Takes His Own Life

Ronin Shimizu, 12, fell victim to bullying for being a "fag": the only boy on his middle school cheerleading squad.

Ronin Shimizu, 12, fell victim to bullying for being a “fag”: the only boy on his middle school cheerleading squad.

Folsom, California – 12-year-old Ronin Shimizu took his own life because he couldn’t bear the bullying anymore. KXTV reports that after incessant bullying for being a “fag” and loving cheerleading so passionately, this young person became yet another in the growing number of children who found rumor and bullying online and in school too much to take. His parents repeatedly warned local school officials that Ronin was being incessantly targeted by bullies. It had gotten so bad in the sixth grade that Brandon and Danielle Shimizu withdrew their son from Middle School, and schooled him at home. But the accusations of homosexuality and denial of his masculinity for being a cheerleader followed him, and in the end overwhelmed him.

In the wake of Ronin’s suicide, officials of Folsom Middle School, and of the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, expressed grief and regret at his passing–too late. Whatever steps they took to stem the tide of cruel bullying were ineffective. According to Gay Star News, Ronin was targeted because he was the only boy on the cheerleading squad. Hundreds gathered for a candlelight vigil for Ronin on December 4 in his neighborhood. A sixth grade member of the Vista Junior Eagles Cheerleading Squad, Riley Coleman, broke down in tears as she said, “He was bullied very badly. It is not OK to bully people.” Cynthia Brown, a concerned parent from the neighborhood told KXTV Channel 10, “He was just a sweet child. For him to feel that hopeless is heart-breaking.” 

Ronin’s parents issued a statement on December 6 as a moving tribute to their son, and a warning to the community about the seriousness of youth suicide from bullying:

“The tragic loss of our son has and will forever change our life. The love and support that we received from family, friends and the Folsom community has been immeasurable and words cannot begin to express our gratitude through this most difficult grieving process. The people close to our family know exactly who Ronin was, but since the story of this tragedy has spread worldwide, we want to take a minute to let the world know who he was. Ronin was one of the most loving, compassionate, empathetic, artistic and funny kids to grace this earth. Ronin was a child who was not afraid to follow his heart, and we as his parents did everything in our power to allow him to pursue his passions, while protecting him from the minority that could not understand the specialness he possessed. As you already know, Ronin loved to do Cheer, but he also loved art, fashion, being a Scout and most recently crew/rowing. It is true that because of his specialness, Ronin was a target of bullying by individuals that could not understand or accept his uniqueness. Ronin was not just a target of bullying because of his participation in cheer, but for him just being Ronin. We as his parents always knew that he would make an impact on the world, we just thought it would be in something like fashion design or art related. We had no idea that God and Buddha had a more important role for him, and we as his parents will make it our mission in life to turn this tragedy into something positive and hopefully prevent another senseless tragedy. In closing, please remember that education in regards to bullying prevention does not only need to occur in our schools but also in the home.” ~ Danielle and Brandon Shimizu

There is help for families battling school bullying. A Sacramento-based non-profit, B.R.A.V.E. Society, “Bullies Are Actually Violating Everyone,” offers solution focused resources for parents and school officials to help stem the rising tide of pre- and teenage suicide.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Asian Americans, B.R.A.V.E. Society, Bullying in schools, California, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Mistaken as Gay, Vigils | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

World AIDS Day 2014: Together, We Can End HIV/AIDS

world_aids_day_dec-_1_2011_10x20A message and a prayer from the Unfinished Lives Project Team to our worldwide readership. Remember those we have lost. Fight for the cure. Care for the people–ALL the people. Get to Zero. That is what World AIDS Day is all about. As avert.org posted in 2006, “Started in 1988, World AIDS Day is not just about raising money, but also about increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.”

As USA TODAY reports, approximately 34 million people are living with HIV. An estimated 35 million people have already died from complications related to the disease. In the United States, approximately 1.2 million people are living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 14% of all people with HIV in the U.S. don’t even know they have the virus, and the only way to find out is to be tested, the CDC warns. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is holding awareness and testing events in California, Florida, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Together, we can end HIV/AIDS. “Each time [human beings] stand up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ~ adapted from the words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy

December 1, 2014 Posted by | AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV/AIDS, Robert F. Kennedy, Unfinished Lives Project Team, World AIDS Day | , , , , , | Comments Off

Gay NC Veteran Burned, Beaten, Dies: A Special Comment

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Stephen Patrick White, burned and beaten to death, and his alleged assailant, Garry Gupton (insert photo).

Greensboro, NC – A gay veteran of Iraq who was savagely attacked, beaten, and set on fire by a younger man who checked into a hotel with him finally succumbed to his injuries on Saturday. Stephen Patrick White, 46, a well-regarded member of the gay community in Piedmont North Carolina and a patron of Club Chemistry, a popular gay bar in Greensboro, was fatally assaulted by Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, a city employee of the Water Services Department. The two met, according to witnesses at Chemistry, and left the club together late on November 8, as this blog previously reported. They checked in to the Battleground Inn.

White’s injuries were horrendous. He suffered burns over 52 percent of his body, and had large portions of his arms amputated in an attempt to save his life. Gupton was arrested on the scene and charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. The City Water Services Department subsequently fired Gupton from his job as a consequence of the investigation. Now, Gupton is charged with first degree murder. Q Notes reports that the Greensboro police are saying that there is no evidence of a hate crime in this case. The Q Notes report includes this statement from a Greensboro PD spokesperson:

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. . . . There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

She added: “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently. This is not a crime motivated by hate.”  

But Danielson could not refrain from adding that while the Greensboro PD are “sure this is not a hate crime,” they have no other explanation for Gupton’s heinous acts, including his use of fire in his deadly attack on White.  “We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielson went on to say to Q Notes. Then, as if she had opened a door she did not want to open, Danielson concluded, “This is not a crime motivated by hate.” 

At this point, all the public has to go on is the assurance of the police that a brutal attack against a gay man who was naked in a hotel room that included a weapon often reserved particularly for the “purification” of “sodomites,” fire, was not a hate crime. Police in the Tarheel State are not permitted to investigate bias-motivated crimes of violence against LGBT people anyway, since the state has refused to include them in its hate crimes statutes. Nonetheless, the police seem eager to rule out hate crime in this instance.

Let us say for the time being they are correct. There was no hate against homosexuality expressed in this crime, explicitly. This, the police are suggesting, was a consensual sexual situation gone terribly bad. Still, the public is left to ask who brought the flammable material into the room? Why was fire used in this case–a give-away for extreme passions and, yes, hatred of the victim targeted in attacks involving burning someone, in this instance as in the instances of thousands of other gay men and lesbians, to death?

However this crime went down in the Gate City, an entire LGBT community is left fearful, shocked, and wondering. Chris Srgo, Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, vocalized the anguish of the statewide community in a statement on Saturday:

“Stephen White’s death is a tragic loss for the Greensboro community and North Carolina. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Stephen’s family. Equality NC promises to follow this investigation closely to ensure that it is thorough and justice is served. The loss of a community member is always tragic, but this loss is unacceptable. As fellow citizens of Greensboro, my husband Ryan and I mourn tonight and stand in solidarity with the LGBT community in Greensboro.” 

Of course, it is wrong to suggest that an obvious marker for homophobia (perhaps internalized homophobia), the use of the torch to burn a gay man (where the despicable term “faggot” originates–the burning at the stake of gay men as if they were dry wood), inevitably leads to the conclusion that Stephen White was attacked so savagely because of his sexual orientation. Yet, is it not also a mistake of equal magnitude to conclude that because the suspect, Gupton, never verbalized that he intended to kill someone that night, he simply went berserk, and finding flammable liquids at hand, thought to use fire as a way to punish his naked pick up for the night?

The North Carolina state motto is “Esse Quam Videri” (“To Be Rather Than To Seem”). Perhaps it would do investigators and lawmakers in Tarheelia well to move beyond what they seem to want to believe in this instance-to the point that they refuse to investigate or legislate even the possibility of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes-, and to answer the nagging question about the motive for the use of fire to kill another gay man the Old North State.

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Equality North Carolina, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Greensboro, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, North Carolina, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay NC Veteran Savagely Burned, Beaten, Robbed in Downtown Hotel By City Employee

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, doused his gay victim with fire and beat him into unconsciousness.

Greensboro, NC – A decorated gay veteran wounded in Iraq was beaten with a phone, pieces of furniture, a large television, and then set afire by a city employee he met at a local gay bar. 46-year-old Stephen White, a regular customer at Greensboro’s popular gay venue, Chemistry, was discovered naked, savagely beaten, and burned over 52% of his body at the Battleground Inn at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 9, according to Q Notes. Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro city employee, was arrested at the scene and charged with the near-fatal attack. Police are saying that assault was carried out “with intent to kill.” Employees of the bar say that Gupton met White Saturday night and they took a cab from the club. Since White is a well-known patron of Chemistry, everything seemed “normal.” In the aftermath of the attack, the gay community is left speculating that Gupton came hunting for an openly gay man to kill. White’s hand and a portion of his arm had to be amputated because of the severity of his burns at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem. He remains in critical care. Hospital officials say that White faces months of surgery, skin grafting, and rehabilitation.

WFMY Television reports that Gupton, a member of the Greensboro City Water Resources crew, has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and inflicting serious injury with intent to kill. He was initially being held on $150,000 bond pending further charges. At his first court appearance on Wednesday, Gupton’s bond was increased to $250,000, and he asked for a court appointed attorney to be assigned to him.

White’s friend, Riki Dublin, told WFMY that the brutality of the attack on the Iraq War veteran staggers her imagination. “I am just in awe of the magnitude of the hate that is involved and I truly do not believe this man has a soul. Cause you, I just couldn’t ever imagine any human treating another human like that,” she said. After announcing a fundraiser for White, who does not have insurance, Dublin went on to say, “It’s hard. When you send your son off to war and he comes back, and he comes back injured but he comes back alive and then he is brutally attacked… here on our own dirt, it’s hard to fathom.” The fundraiser was scheduled for the following Saturday to defray White’s massive medical bills.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

Stephen White, decorated Iraq War veteran, victimized by savage attack.

The owner of Chemistry, Drew Woffard, also stepped up, calling upon the Greensboro community to support White, according to The Advocate. In a statement issued to Q Notes, Woffard announced a November 15 benefit at the club, and said, “Stephen has a long road ahead of him but he is a fighter and he is definitely not alone. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are all fighting for him. Also I remind you to please use caution when leaving our bar or any bar with someone you don’t know. I never would have dreamed something like this would happen here in Greensboro… but let’s make sure it never happens again.” 

The Advocate went on to report that no agency yet plans to charge Gupton with a hate crime, and investigators are not bothering to do so. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force notes that North Carolina’s hate crimes statutes do not include LGBT persons as a protected class. Victims of anti-gay violence like White are left exposed, since North Carolina’s law does not address violence perpetrated against persons because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

If there ever was a case that screamed “hate crime,” this horrific attack does. The use of fire as a weapon in anti-LGBTQ violence has a long and fearsome history, dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. Scholars have noted a decided uptick in cases of bias-driven hate crimes against lesbians and gay men incorporating fire as a deadly weapon. As Stephen White struggles to recover from this heinous act of violence, and Garry Gupton awaits justice to be meted out as it can be in a state that ignores anti-LGBT crimes, the gay community in the Tarheel State is left to ponder what form of murderous intent would set a young man like Gupton to stalk and purge one of their own with fire.

November 13, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, gay veterans, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, North Carolina | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Worst Mother in the World” and Boyfriend Take Plea Deal For Torture Murder of 8 Year Old Son They Feared was “Gay”

Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre entered guilty plea to avoid death penalty.

Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre entered guilty plea to avoid death penalty.

Palmdale, California – The mother of an eight-year-old son she despised for being “gay,” and her live-in boyfriend have pled guilty to first degree murder and torture under special circumstances in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Pearl Fernandez and her sometime lover, Isauro Aguirre, took life in prison without hope of parole, and agreed to waive any appeal to their sentence in the horrific case of young Gabriel Fernandez. Paramedics were called to the couple’s apartment on May 22, 2013 because Gabriel had stopped breathing. He died two days later. According to court testimony by Gabriel’s older sibling Ezequiel, an eye witness to the repeated beatings and torture inflicted on his younger brother, Pearl Fernandez had beaten her child into unconsciousness, and then fearful of discovery, ordered her older child to fabricate a story about an accident in the Palmdale apartment so the adults could escape prosecution for his murder.  The paramedics found Gabriel naked, with cracked ribs, burns, and BB shot in his lung and in his groin area. As quoted in the Antelope Valley Press, Paramedic James Cermak said, “It was like sensory overload. There was burn marks, there was BB holes, bruises in various stages of healing, [it] looked like his ankles were broken. It was like every inch of this boy had been abused.” Cermak added, “We noticed that he had bruising all over his body, he had strangulation marks around his neck, and looked like his teeth had been knocked out.” When Cermak asked Pearl Fernandez about the situation “she became very defensive,” he said, and blamed the unconscious boy for fighting with his brother and being “a dirty boy.” According to NBC Los Angeles, the couple were arrested the day following Gabriel’s discovery for capital murder and torture. Though they both entered a plea of not guilty, a Grand Jury indicted them both in August for one of the most horrendous cases of child abuse and homophobia in Southern California history.

Testimony earlier this year established that Pearl Fernandez and her then-boyfriend Isauro Aguirre locked the boy in a dark closet for hours at a time, stuffed socks in his mouth to prevent him from crying out, repeatedly beat him, psychologically harmed him, and on at least one occasion forced him to eat cat feces and his own vomit as punishment for playing with dolls and acting “gay.” They whipped Gabriel with the metal end of a leather belt for a period of at least eight months, hit him with a bat, knocked his teeth out with a club, and tortured the boy with pepper spray. Though Gabriel was being overseen by the Department of Children and Family Services, at least four social workers who missed or ignored the signs of repeated abuse were dismissed from service in the public uproar over the case. After a total of no fewer than seven reports of suspected child abuse from sources including Gabriel’s teacher, the social workers did not investigate the allegations thoroughly enough to remove the boy from what amounted to a torture chamber of horrors. A blue-ribbon panel formed in the fallout from the case issued a scorching report mandating changes in the way at risk children are overseen in Los Angeles County. Gabriel’s maternal grandmother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the DCFS.

Gabriel Fernandez, tortured and murdered for being "gay."

Gabriel Fernandez, tortured and murdered for being “gay.”

While there is plenty of blame to go around in the horrific torture murder of the eight-year-old, the fact of the active savagery of a mother, deemed otherwise sane, against her own child for whatever reason prompted Gay Star News to dub Pearl Fernandez “The Worst Mother in the World.” According to the Antelope Valley Press, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Beck testified in court that on the night of Gabriel’s discovery, Pearl expressed little or no concern for her child. When prosecutors asked Deputy Beck if she showed concern for anything, he said, “Her cats.” The depth of hatred for LGBTQ people shown by the punishment rained down on Gabriel by Aguirre and Fernandez is hard to fathom. For allegedly playing with dolls, they humiliated him by forcing him to wear girls’ clothing, ridiculed him in front of his siblings, and tortured him beyond belief. Apparently, these two adults believed that blaming an eight-year-old child for being “gay” somehow mitigated and justified what they did to him. It also betokens that his own mother would rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Now, according to an organization posting on Facebook as “Gabriel’s Justice,” Fernandez and Aguirre’s guilty plea and the life-without-parole sentence finally brings some sense of closure to this outrageous case. For the advocates for Gabriel, there was never a doubt that the couple would be found guilty of this heinous crime, for putting Gabriel through such hell for so many months of his young life. The group expressed relief that years of appeals could now be avoided. Now, the fear to which these people subjected an innocent child would now be visited on them with a vengeance. “The two would sit on death row for over 30 years utilizing appeal after appeal with no closure for anyone,” the Gabriel’s Justice web master said in a post on Facebook. “Both will be placed in general population, there’s no safety house for them. This would not be true on Death Row.” With a sense of some vindication, the post is summed up with these words: “Justice has been served.” 

October 29, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Burning and branding, California, capital punishment, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, homophobic child abuse, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gay Hate Crime Killer Denied Parole for Eighth Time in Texas

Paul Broussard (l) as he appeared in 1991, and Jon Buice in prison uniform [Equality Texas photo image].

Paul Broussard (l) as he appeared in 1991, and Jon Buice in prison uniform [Equality Texas photo image].

Huntsville, Texas – The convicted murderer of a Houston gay man has been denied parole for the eighth time by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Jon Buice, the member of the infamous “Woodlands 10″ who dealt the fatal stab wounds to 27-year-old Paul Broussard, was returned to prison on Tuesday to finish out his 45-year sentence, after the Parole Board deemed him unfit for release, according to the Conroe, Texas Courier. Broussard and two friends were attacked by the gang of ten youths outside a Houston gay nightclub on July 4, 1991, and Broussard died as a result of his injuries. Court documents said that the Houston banker was beaten by a nail-studded two-by-four, repeatedly kicked with steel-toed boots, and stabbed three times before he succumbed.

All the assailants were convicted, and served various sentences in Texas for the crime. Because of Buice’s role in this particularly heinous anti-gay hate crime, he received the longest sentence, and is the only one of the Woodlands 10 still in prison. The case received national attention because of the brutality involved in Broussard’s cold blooded murder.

Buice, who has been described by his supporters as a “model prisoner,” was granted parole in July 2011, but because of new evidence presented to the Parole Board at the time, his reprieve was revoked before his release. That evidence has remained confidential to the board, but as in the case of his 2014 parole denial, whatever it was has kept him incarcerated. By special agreement, Buice will come up for review annually.

Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, once again appeared before the board to encourage it not to grant parole to her son’s murderer. Every year, she travels from her Georgia home to Texas in order to keep Buice behind bars. “It’s something I do for my son’s memory and because I want justice,” Rodriguez said. Since 1992, Rodriguez has been aided by Victims Advocate Andy Kahan to ensure that Buice serves the majority of his sentence. In a statement to The Courier, Kahan said, “This was a particularly vicious, senseless crime that centered on hate. We appreciate the parole board taking the stand that convicted murders need to serve the majority of their sentence.”  Rodriguez and Kahan have set a goal to keep Buice behind bars for at least 27 years: one year in prison for every year of Broussard’s lifetime. “That was Paul’s entire life before Buice took it from him,” Rodriguez said to The Courier.

Kahan pointed out to the Parole Board that it is rare for release to be granted to convicted killers before serving out the most of their sentences. He said that the savagery of the crime was the reason the board chose to deny parole this time. Buice has served 22 years so far.

Gay activist Ray Hill, a chief advocate for Buice’s release, contends that Buice is reformed, and that a 45-year sentence is too long for a person who was 17 at the time of the crime. Buice’s lawyer, Tim Habem, refused to discuss the arguments he presented for his client’s parole, but vowed to return next year “for another swing at it.” 

Every Sunday, Nancy Rodriguez says she misses her son’s calls. Every Christmas, the holiday he always honored by coming home to see her, is especially hard. “[Paul] was a good student and a good son,” she said. “I just miss him.”

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Jon Buice, LGBTQ, Paul Broussard, stabbings, Texas, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Woodlands 10 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Gay/Queer Hate Crimes Blog Reaches 600k Milestone!

UFLDallas, Texas – An amateur blogsite sparking interest and conversation on hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people has broken through the 600,000 visitor mark this month! The 600k mark was crossed on Wednesday, October 15. Unfinished Lives Blog, established in 2008 by a Baptist theologian and divinity school professor to keep the stories of LGBTQ hate crimes victims before the public, has touched many more people across the globe than its originator could have imagined six years ago. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, the author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), and a Professor of Practical Theology at Brite Divinity School of Fort Worth, Texas, said, “This blog was and remains to be a labor of love done on a part-time basis. It is breathtaking to me how many people around the world have been touched by this site.” In response to the question of where the emphasis for the Unfinished Lives Project will be going in the future, Sprinkle said, “We will be lifting up more international stories of queer folk struggling to live securely and safely internationally. Human rights is a world-wide issue. At the same time, our primary focus will be the United States, where the murders of people in the sexual minority, especially gay men and transgender people of color, have hit historic high rates.” 

At this milestone, the Unfinished Lives Project Team, along with Dr. Sprinkle, invite their readers and supporters to revisit the original purpose of the blog:

Book“The Unfinished Lives Project website is a place of public discourse which remembers and honors LGBTQ hate crime victims, while also revealing the reality of unseen violence perpetrated against people whose only “offense” is their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender presentation. LGBTQ people in the United States are suffering a slow-rolling decimation of terror and murder all across the country. Every locale and demographic of society are affected: First Nations, Anglo, Black, Latino and Latina, South and Southeast Asian, Transgender, Bisexuals, Gay men, Lesbians, disabled, young, and mature. Homophobia has a long, crooked arm, and it is reaching out to snatch the life away from women and men whose tragic stories are under-reported to begin with, and whose memories are swiftly forgotten.

“The horror of these killings transcends the shock and bereavement of loved ones and friends. These are not typical homicides; they are not killings for money or drugs, incidents of domestic strife, or crimes of passion. The vicious nature of hate crimes against LGBTQ persons is extremely brutal, grotesquely violent, and egregiously hateful.

“Each murder serves the LGBTQ population as a sobering warning about the actual level of danger in our communities. The message these killings send is that freedom and open life for LGBTQ people is a cruel dream. Every time we remember one of these victims, however, the intentions of their killers are frustrated. To remember these women and men is to begin the process of changing the culture that killed them.”

Dr. Sprinkle shared that Unfinished Lives Blog has been shared throughout the Human Rights activist and LGBTQ communities, and is a resource in several cases for academic classes dealing with ethics, sexual minority issues, and LGBTQ literature and history. This milestone is a chance for the creators of the blogsite, as well as many others who labor for the cessation of all bias motivated violent crimes against marginalized people, to rededicate themselves to the work of justice for all people.

“Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of loyal readers, followers, and supporters of this work of love and justice!” ~ The Unfinished Lives Project Team

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brite Divinity School, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Stephen V. Sprinkle, Texas, transphobia, Unfinished Lives blog, Unfinished Lives Project | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

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