Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Michael Scott Goucher and the Deadly Web of Homophobia

 

Michael Scott Goucher

Michael Scott Goucher

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.

Ian Seagraves & Shawn Freemore, courtesy of Pocono Record

Ian Seagraves & Shawn Freemore, courtesy of Pocono Record

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.

Michael Goucher at the Zion UCC organ

Michael Goucher at the Zion UCC organ

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.”

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay men, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, military, Pennsylvania, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

   

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