Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction. On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.” Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.
Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle. The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual. Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.”
Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet. The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie. On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men. Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.
The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse. The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home. At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.
Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction. Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault. Their court dates are pending.
Hillsboro, Oregon – An Oregon mother was found guilty by a Washington County Circuit Court for the murder of her four-year-old-son she thought was gay. Gay Star News reports that it took a jury less than two hours yesterday to convict Jessica Dutro for the August 2012 beating death of her child, Zachary Dutro-Boggess. Dutro showed no emotion as the verdict was read. She was found guilty of murder and five counts of murder by abuse and one count of second-degree assault. The little boy’s intestines were torn in two places by the brutal beating his mother and her boyfriend, Brian Canady, inflicted on him, but the couple allowed the child to suffer for two days before calling 911 to get him some help. As the toxic contents of his bowels had leaked into his body, Dutro had searched the internet for sex online and anger management classes, according to Oregonlive.com. Zachary was dying as he was transported to a Portland Hospital where he was put on life-support until he died on August 16.
Brian Canady had pled guilty in a pre-arranged plea deal to testify against Dutro. He admitted to kicking Zachary. Canady will serve 12-and-a-half years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault.
The evidence against Dutro for the slaying of her young son was damning. Prosecutors shared Facebook messages with the court that detailed her loathing for gay people in general and her fear that her child was going to grow up to be one. In one message, she demanded that Canady “work on” Zachary for being gay. In another, after using a homophobic slur in reference to her child, she wrote, “He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”
Undoubtedly, the most damaging evidence against Dutro came from her own seven-year-old daughter. The little girl, speaking to a counselor, said (in reference her mother and her boyfriend, Canady), “They beat my brother up, and he died. I seen them.” Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial showing “systematic torture and abuse” used by the couple as “discipline” against Zachary, his sister, and his three-year-old brother. Zachary’s siblings were covered in bruises, and the three-year-old boy was found to have five cracked ribs.
Jessica Dutro’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 18.
Washington, D.C. – The long-awaited Harvey Milk commemorative postage stamp is now a reality, according to Linn’s Stamp News. A black-and-white photo image of Harvey Milk will be the central feature of this non-denominated U.S. Postage “Forever” Stamp. The stamp design includes the colors of the Rainbow Flag in six differently colored squares stacked vertically in the upper left corner. First day of issue is planned to be May 22, 2014, Harvey Milk Day, to celebrate the San Francisco gay politician, activist, and city supervisor. Cities likely to be chosen as first issue sites are Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.
Milk, who is recognized throughout the world as a hero and martyr of the LGBTQ and human rights struggle, was a U.S. Navy veteran, and one of the earliest openly gay elected officials in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. Though gay rights was a major emphasis of his political career, Milk also championed affordable housing, city sanitation, expanded child care, and public transportation. He was shot to death in his City Hall office on November 27, 1978 by Dan White, his one-time colleague who blamed his actions on momentary insanity and disorientation from eating too many sugary desserts. White also shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone the same day. The appearance of this commemorative stamp marks the first time a gay hate crimes murder victim has been publicly honored in this way.
EDGE on the Net reports that The stamp, likely to be issued in a pane of 20, will be used to mail a one-ounce letter regardless of when the stamp is purchased or used and no matter how future prices fluctuate. The current value of the stamp is 49 cents.
According to SF Gate, the U.S. Postal Service selects only 20 persons per year to be honored with a commemorative stamp, out of the thousands nominated by people all over the globe, and vetted by a citizens’ advisory committee. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2013 at the announcement of the Postal Service’s decision to develop and issue the stamp, Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk said, “We’re excited. We think this will represent my uncle’s message, which is hope and courage and authenticity, very well.”
Topeka, Kansas – Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle has posted a new article on Huffington Post Religion. You can visit the original article here. Comments and shares from the Huffington Post site are appreciated by all the readers of http://unfinishedlivesblog.com.
Rev. Fred Phelps, Founder and former Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, is dead at the age of 84. Pundits and regular people are busily dissecting the story and social significance of one of the most venom-filled ministerial lives in American history, as well as the hate-mongering “ministry” the Westboro Church became notorious for doing since 1991. What, however, is the spiritual and theological import of the life Fred Phelps lived and the religious leadership he carried out for better than two decades? What does Fred Phelps teach us about God, and the service of others in God’s name?
Dare we even speak of Rev. Phelps as a “negative saint,” the polar opposite of all Christ-like saints, given the carnage Phelps left in the lives of countless queer folk, slain service members, and cultural celebrities he and his flock picketed and condemned to eternal damnation? “Saint-language” seems blasphemous when we apply it to a man’s life so rabidly committed to eliciting the worst from the human spirit and the Christian faith. Nevertheless, every life lived has something to teach us about ourselves and God, does it not? How can we not speak of Phelps as we must speak of ourselves and all others who stand need of the amazing grace of God? Allow me to explain what I mean.
We remember the epithets Fred Phelps reveled in. He made “God Hates Fags” a standard feature of modern hate speech. We cannot erase from our minds the images of Matthew Shepard, Billy Jack Gaither, and Diane Whipple writhing in the animated hell fire that Phelps installed on his web site, complete with a background soundtrack of groans and screams to drive home the message that nothing he could imagine could be worse than to be gay and lesbian. We will never know the number of fanatics Phelps inspired by his vileness, nor the multitude of LGBTQ people young and old who felt his criticisms crush their self-esteem and cut into their souls like knives. But we have seen his kind before: Pharaoh, and Saul, Ahitophel, and Judas, to name but a few oldies but baddies. Or Roy Cohn, Senator Joe McCarthy, and “Bull” Connor to name some near contemporary bad guys. I am sure you have your own personal list. Nevertheless, Phelps and his bad seed still wind up serving God just like the best of us. That is the theological sense Fred Phelps makes. His “negative sainthood” shows us that the worst wickedness is, in the end, powerless before grace and mercy.
Karl Barth in his Shorter Commentary on Romans (SCR) and throughout the Church Dogmatics (KD and CD) teaches that the Pharaoh of the Exodus who held the Hebrew children in abject slavery with a hard heart ultimately found himself broken upon God, who uses the story of Pharaoh’s human darkness to witness to divine mercy, standing right alongside Moses who testifies to God’s liberating justice. Barth writes, “Therefore Pharaoh too serves ‘the power of God’ (SCR, 73). Barth struggled against anti-semitism and fascism with a theological strength we need to deal with homophobia and transphobia. Like the contrasting pair of Pharaoh and Moses, Barth talks about Judas Iscariot and Jesus. Barth writes that Judas, the “rejected man,” is the best pattern he can find of a person who rejected goodness, going so far as to pronounce judgment on himself, and joining Jesus in death. Yet every “rejected one” remains a witness to God, who in the end shows that the very amazing grace upon which the future depends is also there for the “rejected,” too. Barth declares: “The rejected man exists in the person of Jesus Christ only in such a way that he is assumed into His being as the elect and beloved of God . . . With Jesus Christ the rejected can only have been rejected. He cannot be rejected anymore” (KD II/2, 502; CD, 453). Fred, too!
So, does that mean that Pharaoh, or Judas, or Fred get a pass on what they do, thanks to some sort of weak-kneed universalism, the idea that God saves everyone regardless? Barth denied such a possibility: “The Church will not . . . preach a powerless grace of Jesus Christ or a wickedness of men which is too powerful for it. But without any weakening of the contrast, and without any arbitrary dualism, it will preach the overwhelming power of grace and the weakness of human wickedness in face of it” (KD II/2, 529; CD, 477). Fred Phelps and Joe McCarthy and Judas Iscariot must, in the end, answer to the same justice and grace of God their words and deeds rejected when they refused to treat all of God’s children with justice and love. The deeds of the “negative saints” of God are terrible, and it is only right that they should somehow suffer. No one knows what Fred Phelps had to face from his excommunication or upon his sick bed. But Fred and Joe and Judas depend upon and bear witness to the divine mercy, also—just like Moses and Mary and Martin Luther King Jr.
Even a “Nemesis Saint” like Rev. Fred Phelps is a witness to the divine mercy. “Saint” Pharaoh, too. And “Saint” Judas. For all the saints, pro and con, testify to the grace and justice before which we are all alike in utter need. No one I know shows the impotence of wickedness or the need of divine mercy more than Fred Phelps. And in that way, at the very least, “Saint” Fred shows me something mysteriously awesome about the amazing grace of God.
Port Bolivar – Suspicions are mounting in the double murder of a Texas Lesbian couple whose bodies were discovered by a dumpster in Port Bolivar. KHOU Houston reports that the corpses of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found dumped beside a trash dumpster outside of Fisherman’s Cove store by a beer deliveryman taking out garbage early on March 7. Galveston Sheriff’s Department officials say that the young women were in a romantic relationship. Details of the murders remain scarce, but officials have said that each of the victims was killed in a different way, and that the lack of blood at the scene suggests they were murdered at another location, after which their bodies were taken to the dumpster site.
KTRK Eyewitness News says that the young lesbians who lived with their great grandmother had gone to Galveston for Mardi Gras. Jackson, who is described by her relatives as loving her partner Cosby, leaves behind a five year old daughter. The child considered Cosby and Jackson as her parents. The families of both women are desperate for answers. They are pleading for informers to come forward and give authorities leads as to who killed their loved ones. McDade Cosby, Britney’s sister, begged the public via KTRK, “Just come forward, just to give us closure as a family. Just come forward, ’cause we need closure at this point.” Crystal’s sister, Lequita Jackson, sobbed as she decried the murder, “What did they do to you to kill my sister? You beat my sister up and you just, you messed her up to the point she can’t breath no more.”
Police are searching for Britney Cosby’s 2006 Silver Kia Sorrento that appears to have been stolen. Authorities believe whoever took the vehicle may be the key to this grisly double murder. In an update on the case, a police sketch of a prime suspect in the murders has been released to the press.
The quiet beach town is rattled and on edge from the news of the murders. Residents say they do not feel safe. “Unbelievable, it’s scary,” Nancy Palley, a Port Bolivar citizen, said to Huffington Post. “You know, I told my husband we are making sure to lock our doors today. I’m not coming home to find someone in my house.” Though an explicit statement that these killings are an anti-gay hate crime, that possibility looms large in the minds of the public and law enforcement. This case recalls the double shooting of two lesbians in Portland, Texas, a Corpus Christi area town, in 2012. Mollie Olgin, 19, was found dead at the scene of a gunshot wound, and her partner, Mary Christine Chapa, 18, was grievously wounded but survived. No one has been arrested in the Portland murders.