Michael Scott Goucher, 21, thought he was meeting Shawn “Skippy” Freemore, 19, for a second tryst when he left his Stroudsburg, PA, apartment on the night of February 3, 2009 (see Towleroad, “Internet Tryst Leads to Murder of Pennsylvania Army Veteran, 2/13/2009”). Instead, Goucher was being set up for murder. Goucher met Freemore online. According to his MySpace page, Freemore identified as bisexual, but more interested in men. After the initial meet up in January, Freemore enlisted his friend, Ian Seagraves, 17, to ambush Goucher.
Goucher followed Freemore out of his car in a wooded area off of Snow Hill Road in Price Township. Seagraves, who was hiding under a nearby bridge, surprised Goucher, stabbing him in the neck. During the attack, his two assailants stabbed Goucher “45 to 50 times” according to police affadavits. They rifled his pockets, taking credit cards, his ID, and a cell phone. A DVD belonging to Goucher was later confiscated at Seagraves’ home. They covered his body with snow, and drove his car away.
When he was arrested, Freemore contended that he had acted alone and used the “gay panic” defense, saying that he resisted Goucher’s sexual advances in the car, and only after Goucher pursued him outside, stabbed him in the neck and stomach “about 20 times.” On February 11, 2009, Freemore showed police the location of Goucher’s body. Detectives secured a knife and a meat cleaver near the body, and a roll of duct tape with Seagraves’ fingerprint under the bridge. Seagraves, who apparently celebrated his part in the murder by changing his MySpace moniker to “ThrOwt Stabba,” was soon arrested, and the pair is now charged with premeditated murder.
This is one murder the FBI will surely miss in its Hate Crimes Statistics. The murky details of online hookups, closeted gayness, and bisexuality mingle with drug and alcohol addiction (on Freemore’s part at least), theft, and the involvement of the teenage men in a violence-exalting subculture called “the Juggaloes.” Anti-gay hate murder has been facilitated online before, as the story of Michael J. Sandy showed in 2006, as well as the role that homosexual self-loathing plays in the psychological makeup of some attackers. But this was a brutal, homophobia-instigated and motivated hate crime.
Goucher, a U.S. Army veteran, was a contributing member of his community. He worked for the local school system, and volunteered as the assistant organist of the Zion United Church of Christ in Stroudsburg, where he had impressed the pastor and the membership with his talent, sincerity, and friendliness. He was captain of the East Stroudsburg Crime Watch. He was a gay man. Though he came out to his family as early as 14, according to his uncle, William Searfoss, Goucher did keep his orientation from his Army superiors.
His killers will be judged according to the evidence. Allegedly, they own the guilt for this terrible crime. But Freemore and Seagraves are, in their own ways, victims of American-style homophobia, too. They were products of the same school system as Michael Goucher. They loathed gay men enough to turn a consensual sexual encounter into a bloodbath, with all the marks of homophobic overkill. They victimized Michael Goucher, giving way to their own self-loathing.
UPDATE: Following a Supreme Court ruling that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life without parole, Ian Seagraves was given a new hearing in hopes of securing a lesser sentence. His attorney filed a petition to the court based on the Supreme Court decision. But the judge was unmoved by the arguments, and after hearing the profanity laced lyrics of Seagraves’ song about the Goucher murder, reaffirmed the sentence Seagraves was serving. Goucher’s uncle, William Searfoss, said to PA Homepage, that the focus of the story can now return to Michael Goucher: “This isn’t about [Seagraves]. This is about Mike.”
Roberto “Pancho” Duncanson
1987 – May 12, 2007
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York
Terence at www.republicoft.com expresses outrage that Roberto Duncanson’s murder was not classified or prosecuted as an anti-gay hate crime. I share the outrage, T. If his stabbing death was not about hate, then what was it about?
Roberto Duncanson, nicknamed “Pancho,” worked at a local CVS Drug Store in Chelsea, NY. He had planned to vacation in Miami for his 21st birthday, and afterwards to start school to become an x-ray tech. He was a gay African American.
On the night of May 12, 2007, he had a run-in with Omar Willock, 17, who became enraged with Duncanson, claiming that he had flirted with him. All Willock could point to was the way he said Duncanson “looked” at him. Willock followed Duncanson down St. Mark’s Avenue, Crown Heights, shouting anti-gay slurs at him.
Duncanson walked away. He intended to visit a cousin on Brooklyn Avenue. Willock wouldn’t let it go. He kept verbally attacking Duncanson, and then started a fistfight with him. Duncanson defended himself. According to eye-witness testimony from his cousin, Jeimar Brown, after he and two girls pulled the two men apart, Willock had used a knife on his victim, having stabbed him four times. Willock ran from the scene. Duncanson collapsed on the sidewalk, striking his head on a street sign, bleeding profusely. He died an hour later at Kings County Hospital.
Willock was arrested after being picked out of a police lineup. His trial for the murder of Roberto Duncanson began March 11, 2009. On March 12, the judge in the trial tossed out the hate crime charge, which would have increased the minimum sentence in the case of conviction. He told the court that the DA had not sufficiently substantiated the hate crime nature of the murder. Willock was found guilty and sentenced from 15 years to life. Customarily, less than 25 years of such a sentence is served.
Willock dogged Duncanson again and again, verbally assaulting him with ugly, anti-gay epithets, provoked a fight, and then wielded his knife to stab and kill the person whose life he loathed. Hate crime? Hell, yes! What else would any reasonable person call it?
~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project
William McInerney, 45, father of 15-year-old murder defendant, Brandon McInerney, was found dead this morning at his home in Silver Strand, CA. Dr. Joyce Frank, Ventura County Assistant Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy, said that the elder McInerney died from a blunt-force head trauma. The death has been ruled an accident. McInerney was said to have a history of alcoholism.
McInerney was found dead on the floor in his living room by a friend who was to take him to his son’s preliminary hearing in Superior Court. Brandon McInerney is charged with the shooting death of openly gay Lawrence “Larry” King, 15-years-old, in their morning computer class at E.O. Green Middle School in Oxnard on February 12, 2008. Young McInerney allegedly approached King from behind, and shot him in the head with his grandfather’s pistol. King’s murder has become the most widely covered anti-LGBT murder since Matthew Shepard’s death in October 1998. McInerney had allegedly harassed King for months about his feminine self-presentation.
Controversy about whether Brandon, a youth fascinated by Nazi symbols and paraphernalia, was to be tried as a juvenile or an adult has raged ever since the shooting. The younger McInerney was 14 at the time he allegedly shot King. According to California law, he is to be tried as an adult, with a possible sentence of 51 years in prison if found guilty.
The judge conducting the hearing postponed proceedings at the news of William McInerney’s death. The family has announced a private funeral ceremony. The Unfinished Lives Project issues our condolences to the McInerney family.
A kinder, gentler Ft. Lauderdale may be in the cards, as John P. “Jack” Seller takes over as Mayor after 18 years of an anti-gay administration. Ex-mayor Jim Naugle scapegoated the LGBT community for a non-existent sex and crime problem in public toilets along the city’s fabled gay-friendly beaches. Enraged at Naugle’s homophobic rhetoric and his enlistment of right wing church groups in a “war” against “immorality,” LGBT opponents of Naugle launched a “Flush Naugle” campaign, parodying the mayor’s effort to get $250k robo-toilets installed on the beaches.
Naugle’s “war” claimed victims, most notably Simmie L. Williams, Jr., a 17-year-old trans person, known on the Sistrunk Avenue strip where he died as “Chris,” or “Beyoncé.” Two assailants shot him to death on the night of February 22, 2008, and as yet are not apprehended. Homophobia has a crooked arm. No straight line of cause and effect need link Naugle’s diatribes against the LGBT community to Simmie Williams’ murder, but the mayor’s irresponsible rhetoric set the stage for violence against queer folk in Broward County to escalate.
Simmie Williams died in the street wearing a dress, a casualty in a “war” he didn’t even know he was enlisted to fight. Mayor Seller, who has just taken office, has his work cut out for him. Shall it be, “Come Bask in the Sun,” in Fort Lauderdale, or “Come Bash in the Sun”? At the Unfinished Lives Project, we know which one we vote for.
~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director, The Unfinished Lives Project
365gay reports a 300% increase in homophobic hate crimes in Santa Clara County, California, just south of San Francisco. Two years ago, 15% of hate crimes were designated as anti-LGBT in nature. Last year’s statistics showed a dramatic increase to 56% of all hate crimes in the county.
An official for the District Attorney’s Office said to reporters for the Mercury News, “Marriage equality and Proposition 8 have been in the news, and we have seen an increase of gay bashing.” Stats for the rest of California’s counties will be released in the Attorney General’s annual report on hate crimes, due out in July.
In November, the “Yes on 8” campaign prevailed at the polls, 52% to 48%. The California Supreme Court has heard arguments on both sides of the question concerning a repeal of Proposition 8 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Also at stake are the 18,000 same-sex marriages carried already in the state. The judges have 90 days to issue a ruling.
In the meantime, the potential voting public in the Golden State remains sharply divided over the issue of same-sex marriage. A public opinion poll shows that 47% would now vote to maintain the ban. 48% report that they would vote to repeal Proposition 8.
Meanwhile, the bashings continue at a breathtaking rate. Stay tuned.
Ryan Keith Skipper
April 28, 1981 – March 14, 2007
This is the second anniversary of Ryan’s murder. In the deep of night, as March 13 bled into March 14, two attackers savaged him as he sat in his car. The Polk Country Associate Medical Examiner testified that his autopsy revealed 19 stab and slash wounds, probably from two knives. The killing stroke was a 3.5-inch-deep cut into his neck, severing his jugular.
Though nothing can bring Ryan back to his family and friends, Joseph Eli “Smiley” Bearden, now 23, was found guilty on all counts. He is now serving a life sentence for Ryan’s murder. William David “Bill Bill” Brown, Jr., now 22, will stand trial for first degree murder in October of this year.
Sheriff Grady Judd has not yet apologized for filling the airwaves with misinformation about Ryan’s life, his character, and the events on the night of the murder. Every allegation he repeated to the press has been disproven. Judd should have been drummed out of office. Instead, he was re-elected by the citizens of Polk County this past November.
Ryan’s life is cherished, and his memory is a powerful force for winning equality for LGBT Americans. The manner of his death is a strong incentive for all people of good conscience to urge Congress and the President to enact the Matthew Shepard Act and the Transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act into law, as well as abolish the military’s infamous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
How do you boil a bullfrog? Don’t try to plop it in a steaming kettle on the stove. Ease it into a nice warm bath in the pot, and let it swim around until it drops its guard. Nudge up the heat nice and slow. Caught unawares, the frog won’t wake up to its danger until it is too late and the water is about to boil.
Last year saw a rash of murders of young, feminine-presenting men about this time. In January, Adophus Simmons of North Charleston, South Carolina was shot to death while carrying his trash out to the dumpster. In February, just after Valentine’s Day, Larry King was shot in the back of the head in his middle school computer class by his classmate in Oxnard, California. Then, near the end of February, Simmie Williams, Jr. was shot down in the street in Fort Lauderdale, Florida by two still-unapprehended murders. Simmons was 18, King was 15, and Williams was 17.
It took some weeks for the LGBT press to connect the dots and cry out that young, gender non-conforming men, especially young men of color, were in the crosshairs of deadly prejudice in the United States. King’s murder drew a cover story in The Advocate, and then the mainstream press picked up the theme with its flawed cover in Newsweek. The nation shrugged off the murders of the other two boys. Now, things have gone strangely silent about the morphing of murder against LGBT people, with minimal interest in the new outbreak of violence against African American transwomen in Memphis, Tennessee. Queer folk are still being killed, but in the glow of President Obama’s first 100 Days, with all eyes turned to the beautiful First Couple and the stumbling U.S. economy, even the LGBT press is falling to sleep again, lulling the LGBT population who are still at risk everywhere into a false sense of security. The bullfrog is doing the backstroke in the kettle, and the heat is rising oh-so-slowly.
Just like queer folk used to sit through whole tiresome movies like Johnny Guitar just to see Joan Crawford descend the stairs wearing a butch shirt waving a gun, the LGBT and progressive press are hanging onto every hint of “gay” in President Obama’s speeches and press releases. He said “gay and lesbian” in Chicago on Election Night! He didn’t mention us in the Inaugural Address at all, but has our issues on the White House web site! His team invited Rick Warren (who opposes us 100%) to pray, but Joseph Lowery (who kinda likes us), too! The Inaugural Committee chose Bishop Gene Robinson to pray at the Lincoln Memorial (but then botched its broadcast, and somebody cut off his mic), and at the last minute invited him to the platform for the Inauguration! Please!
Here is what we know for sure:
1) Queer folk are still being killed and attacked in heightened numbers throughout the United States, especially in the Heartland of the Upper Midwest, the Left Coast, and the South, as NCAVP and FBI statistics demonstrate.
2) Even the presumption that someone is gay is deadly, as was the case of José O. Sucuzhañay, a straight man attacked while walking arm-in-arm with his brother in Brooklyn just before Christmas.
3) Transgender women and men, especially if they are of color, are dying in our streets in alarming numbers, as the Memphis attacks testify.
4) A gay man’s life is worth less than an animal’s in some states, as the imminent early release of Sean William Kennedy’s convicted murderer shows in Greenville, South Carolina.
5) Silence-of-the-Lambs style murders apparently cannot shake urban governments awake to the peril of their LGBT citizens, as the gruesome dismemberment of Richard Hernandez and the subsequent veil of silence surrounding it in Dallas, TX points out.
6) Most LGBT people would rather not read about this right now, with Spring Break coming up, and Easter, and the next Circuit Party, and all.
Who wouldn’t rather ignore the reality of violence and neglect that makes LGBT jobs, loves and our very lives so fragile in March 2009, the Obama Administration notwithstanding? Please don’t “let Barack do it” and abdicate responsibility for acting for and end to anti-LGBT violence in this country. Barack Obama needs all of us who feel the heat to make him keep his promises to enact the Matthew Shepard Act, ENDA, and to repeal DADT.
Don’t be fooled. Don’t be lulled. The kettle is on to boil.
~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director
The Unfinished Lives Project
DallasVoice.com News Editor, John Wright reports that Jonathan Russell Gunther, 32, has been found guilty on March 4 of first-degree felony robbery and sentenced to 30 years for brutally attacking 43-year-old bisexual Jimmy Lee Dean on the night of July 17, 2008. Gunther and Bobby Jack Singleton, 29, both of Garland, Texas, beat and robbed Dean one block off the famous Cedar Springs Strip, the center of LGBT life in the DFW Metroplex. Singleton has yet to be tried for the crime.
The two assailants pistol-whipped Dean with a 9mm Glock handgun, rendering him unconscious, and then repeatedly kicked him in the head and body as he lay on the pavement. Their attack could have proved fatal, were it not for the intervention of Michael Robinson, a gay man who witnessed the crime in progress and called for help. Dean’s face is severely disfigured, he has lost his sense of smell, and suffers bouts of depression as a result of the incident. His eyelid still droops after two surgeries and may not be repairable. Before the sentencing, Dean spoke out about the crime, “I have never and could never see a reason to beat someone nearly to death just to have a good time…The only thing that will really make it easier is after the other trial. One down, one to go.”
Dallas-area LGBT folk and allies took to the streets in protest of the Dean attack, and the sluggish response of local officials to the rising anti-LGBT violence in the city. Dallas accounts for 34% of all the anti-gay hate violence in Texas.
Advocate.com reports that the US Supreme Court has ruled against Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, in their petition to build an anti-gay monument condemning slain LGBT icon, Matthew Shepard. Phelps wanted to erect the monument in a governmental plaza in Kansas reading, “Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God’s warning ‘thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is an abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22.”
The Supremes ruled unanimously that government parks receiving monument donations are under no obligation to accept them all. Phelps previously attempted to erect a similar monument condemning homosexuality and Matthew Shepard in a city park located in Shepard’s hometown, Caspar, Wyoming. The city council rejected the offer. Shepard, who was openly gay, was brutally murdered by two young men from Laramie where he was attending the University of Wyoming, in October 1998. The news of the heinous hate crime murder rocked the nation, and awakened millions to the existence of anti-LGBT violence in their own backyards. Both his attackers, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, are serving life sentences. To date, no federal hate crimes prevention statutes have been enacted into law. The Matthew Shepard Act is under consideration during this Congress once again.
Second Annual Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award
Sunday, February 15, 2008
Montgomery, AL: Ten years after the brutal slaying of 39-year-old Alabamian Billy Jack Gaither, the award bearing his name was presented by Equality Alabama to activist George Olsson. Hundreds of supporters gathered at the capital steps in Montgomery for the Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence. Vickie Saltsman, Billy Jack’s elder sister, spoke of the love all her family have for their brother, who was murdered in 1999 for being a gay man: “Not a day goes by without our thinking of him,” she said.