Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

The Year in Review

As 2008 draws to a close, hate crime statistics from 2007 are finally coming into clearer focus. Both the FBI and various anti-violence programs are verifying hate crime increases perpetrated against the LGBT community-at-large. Sadly, the findings from 2007 have been corroborated by ongoing violent acts in 2008.



FBI Hate Crimes Statistics for 2007: Sexual-orientation bias related crimes are up 18%.* National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs disputes these statistics, claiming a 24% increase, at least. The official report says that in 2007, law enforcement agencies reported 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias to the FBI. Of these offenses:

  • 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
  • 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
  • 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
  • 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
  • 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

(*Note: Anti-transgender incidents are not reported in these statistics, since law-enforcement is not required by law to report them.)



Clarence Patton, Executive Director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (NYAVP), noted the “dramatic increase in the number of anti-lesbian, gay and bisexual incidents reported—though the overall number of reports captured by the FBI rose only 8%, the number of reports impacting our communities rose at more than twice that rate.”

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a coalition of 30 member programs including the NYAVP, reported that gay bashing incidents actually rose 24% compared to 2006. 2007 also had the third-highest murder rate in a decade, more than doubling from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.

Even these statistics hardly give the picture of the crisis of violence against LGBT people all across the United States. The true number of incidents perpetrated against queer folk is probably much higher, as Avy Skolnik, national programs co-ordinator of the NCAVP, reported:

“We know that the 2,430 people who called on our organizations in 2007 are only a small fraction of the actual number of LGBT people who experienced bias-motivated violence. Anecdotally, we constantly hear stories of LGBT people surviving abuse—sometimes multiple attacks per day when that violence comes from a fellow student, a neighbor, a co-worker, a landlord, or a boss.”


Richard Hernandez, butchered in his apartment bathroom

Richard Hernandez, butchered in his apartment bathroom

Dallas, Texas, boasting one of the largest LGBT populations in the country, saw LGBT people taking to the streets in protest of the alarming number of attacks. Two high-profile murders and several brutal assaults, including the “Silence of the Lambs style” dismemberment of gay man, Richard Hernandez, a 34-year-old citizen of Dallas, sparked street protests from United Community Against Gay Hate Crime to draw the attention of the public to the plight of LGBT citizens.


Gay Apartheid

Behind each number in these statistics are real people: victims, family, friends, bereaved lovers. This is the human cost of Gay Apartheid. The real target of these atrocities, however, is the idea of America, a country where all people may pursue their lives without fear of intimidation or violence. Until American laws and the attitudes behind them change to reflect the inclusion of all people in the constitutional rights and privileges afforded some, then this nation must be brought to face so-called “legal” acts of apartheid against the LGBT community.

Forty years after the Stonewall Uprising in New York, universally recognized as the birth of the LGBT Rights Movement, 29 states have constitutional amendments passed for the sole purpose of depriving LGBT citizens the same rights as heterosexuals. States have enacted bans against gay parenting and adoption. Not only has the Federal Government passed the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), and instituted the oppressive “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for the U.S. Military, but 15 states have barred same-sex marriage, and 18 states have legislation limiting domestic partnerships and civil unions. The passage of Proposition 8 in California, repealing the right to marry given to its citizens earlier in the year, is just the latest act of apartheid in this country. Violence is following the law, not the other way around.

The definition of Apartheid is “a system of laws applied to one category of citizens in order to isolate them and keep them from having privileges and opportunities given to all others,” according to elder LGBT statesman, Herb Hamsher, writing for the Huffington Post. The Unfinished Lives Project cannot agree with Hamsher more when he says, “Our role is to hold a mirror up to the country and no longer allow it to shift the focus away from what we have become. We have become a nation increasingly devoted to an encroaching system of apartheid for a designated category of its citizens.”

When the tyranny of the majority goes unchecked, and the apartheid system apes the bias against LGBT people in communities and religious institutions, the American ideal of the protection of the minority from the excesses of their neighbors is exposed as a fantasy. An Apartheid America is not the nation of the free or the brave. Hate Crime murders and other violent crimes against LGBT people are hundreds and thousands of mirrors held up to the nation. We must continue to stand up, hold up these brutally frank mirrors to the disfigurement of America until our fellow citizens repudiate the travesty of the law these hate crime statistics represent.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Decapitation and dismemberment, gay men, Hate Crime Statistics, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, New York, Parenting equality, Protests and Demonstrations, Texas, transgender persons, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Year in Review

José Sucuzhañay dead after Brooklyn hate crime attack

José O. Sucuzhañay

José O. Sucuzhañay

31-year-old real estate broker José O. Sucuzhañay died on Friday, December 12th, after spending five days on a ventilator in a brain-dead condition.

Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel were walking home arm-in-arm after a night of drinking in a Brooklyn bar when three assailants attacked the brothers, having mistaken them as gay. The attackers emerged from a maroon SUV, yelling, “Check out those faggots over there.” The attackers also shouted racial epithets. Witnesses said the murderers first smashed a bottle over Sucuzhañay’s head and then struck him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat.

Gay City News describes the attack this way:

According to police, one assailant broke the bottle over Sucuzhanay’s head. After the victim fell to the ground, another of the attackers began beating him with the bat. Romel Sucuzhanay managed to flee from the path of the first assailant who chased after him with the broken beer bottle. He finally prevailed on the men to stop beating his brother when he showed them that he had a cellphone to use to call police.

Sucuzhañay’s mother was still on her way from Ecuador when José died at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. The family had hoped to keep their brother alive on life support long enough for their mother to arrive and say good-bye to her son.

A third brother, Diego Sucuzhañay, calls his brother’s death “a loss beyond words.”


Gay City News: “Hate Crime Victim Brain-Dead”

Box Turtle Bulletin: “Capital Crime: Appearing Gay”

Newsday: “Immigrant dead in possible hate crime”

Box Turtle Bulletin: “Brooklyn Hate Crime Victim Dies”

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Racism, Slurs and epithets | 2 Comments

Project Activity — Fall of 2008

In the fall of 2008, the Unfinished Lives Project agreed to participate in community events in Texas and North Carolina remembering victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes. In September, our project director traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he served as a panelist at the Park View Project’s documentary film premier dedicated to the life of Talana Quay Kreeger. While there, Dr. Sprinkle also gave an Unfinished Lives presentation to St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church. October marked the 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming. Our project joined a Matthew Shepard remembrance held at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and then participated in the “Hope, Not Hate” remembrance at the University of Texas in Austin. These and other project activities are included below.

September 2008Wilmington, North Carolina – From September 26-29, Dr. Sprinkle was the guest of Family Tree Productions, independent filmmakers creating a documentary about the life and death of Talana Quay Kreeger, 32, savagely disemboweled by long haul trucker Ronald Thomas in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1990.

Talana Quay Kreeger

(photo courtesy of Tab Ballis)

Ronald Thomas

Dr. Sprinkle keynoted the premier of the trailer of “Park View,” the film documenting Talana’s death in this North Carolina port city. Tab Ballis is the Producer/Director of “Park View,” and Linda Warden is Associate Producer/Editor.

The waterfront at Wilmington, North Carolina

Linda Warden, Steve Sprinkle, and Tab Ballis

St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church, pastored by Rev. Amanda McCullough, hosted the event. St. Jude’s was founded soon after Talana’s murder because LGBT people had been turned away by all but one church in Wilmington as a site for her memorial service. Gay people vowed never to be in that situation again.

St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church

Steve Sprinkle and Amanda McCullough

Talana was a carpenter, and a regular at the Lesbian bar, the Park View Grill, on Carolina Beach Road. She was remodeling the bar, drinking beer, and playing pool on the night of February 22, 1990 when Alabamian Ronald Thomas offered her a ride after closing hour to Hardee’s just a mile up the road to get some late night breakfast. Thomas was to drop off a load of oranges at Hoggard High next morning. Instead, he pulled his rig off the road to a remote dead end, and assaulted and raped Talana, smashing her dentures, and manually disemboweling her.

The Park View Grill

Talana Kreeger’s murder site

Details from Talana Kreeger’s autopsy report

(photo courtesy of Tab Ballis)

October 2008Austin, Texas – On Sunday, October 12, a coalition of Austin’s LGBTs and African Americans sponsored “Hope, Not Hate,” a public remembrance and vigil marking the 10th Anniversary of the hate killings of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard. Our director, Dr. Sprinkle, keynoted the event at University Baptist Church exactly ten years after Byrd’s and Shepard’s hate crime murders in Jasper, Texas, and Laramie, Wyoming, respectively.

Candlelighters at “Hope, Not Hate” in Austin, Texas

Steve Sprinkle delivers the “Hope, Not Hate” keynote address

Among the committee organizers for the “Hope, Not Hate” event were Rev. Karen Thompson, of Metropolitan Community Church in Austin; Colonel Paul Dodd, U.S. Army (ret.), of the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network; and Paul Scott, Executive Director of Equality Texas.

Steve Sprinkle, Rev. Karen Thompson, and Col. Paul Dodd

Paul Scott and Steve Sprinkle

Todd Harvey, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, has been deeply involved in the Unfinished Lives Project, and was also present for the event.

Unfinished Lives Project supporter, Todd Harvey

Better than 150 people participated in the vigil and candlelight ceremony. Together with Dr. Sprinkle, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo also made remarks at the event.

Candles in remembrance of Matthew Wayne Shepard and James Byrd, Jr.

October 2008Fort Worth, Texas – Rev. Harry Knox, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, spoke at Brite Divinity School and TCU for the “Erase the Hate Campaign,” remembering the 10th Anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.

Harry Knox and Brite Divinity School’s Dr. Namsoon Kang

Harry made a wonderful, powerful contribution to the equality movement on TCU’s campuses. Dr. Sprinkle served as Harry’s host and participated throughout the events of the week.

TCU’s Dr. Harriet Cohen and Harry Knox

Harry Knox and Shelly Newkirk, Vice President of the TCU Gay/Straight Alliance

November 2008Austin, Texas – Dr. Sprinkle was a presenter at the Open Circle GLBT Retreat held at University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, on November 15, 2008. His presentation was “Journey of Reconciliation: Soul-Weariness.”

November 2008Fort Worth, Texas – Unfinished Lives project director Stephen Sprinkle spoke at the Transgender Day of Remembrance held at Agapé Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 20, and gave a presentation entitled “Innocent Blood: Guarding the Memories of Our Slain Transgender Sisters and Brothers.” The title and subject of the presentation was inspired by an Icon written by Fr. William Hart McNichols, entitled Jesus Christ: the Seraphic Guardian of the Blood, and dedicated to Petty Officer Allen Schindler and the Thousands of Victims of anti-LGBT Hate Crimes.

Jesus Christ: the Seraphic Guardian of the Blood

by Fr. William Hart McNichols

December 8, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Art and Architecture, Asian Americans, Evisceration, gay men, Lesbian women, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Project Activity Summaries, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, Wyoming | 1 Comment


%d bloggers like this: