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 | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I grew up with Mike, and although his murder has hit us all very hard you have your facts very truly wrong. Mike was very open about his sexual orientation since High school. I in fact attended the Same High school and was a part of our GSA(gay, straight alliance) group. WE DO NOT live in some tiny homophobic community, filled with rednecks as you would suggest. Mike only if ever hid the fact that he was gay when he was serving his county and only to his superior officers. You are painting a very incorrect picture of my beloved and now lost friend. Please serve his memory well and get your facts straight, and not change and/or corrupt them to serve your own personal agenda.

    -Jessica P.

    Comment by Jessica | April 30, 2009

    • Thank you for your comment, Jessica. We are sorry for your loss. Information for this story was gathered from several news sources in the local area, as well as the on-air commentary of your friend’s aunt and uncle. We hope justice will be done when the alleged murderers are brought to trial.

      Comment by unfinishedlives | May 1, 2009

    • I am Mikes Uncle, we raised Mike through his teen years and he considered us his family. He was NOT a closet gay man. He told us when he was 14 he was gay. He kept if from his US Army supervisors.

      Now you have the real facts from his uncle. If you need to contact me please do so.

      Comment by William Searfoss | January 15, 2010

  2. Mike, I have not known you personally.
    But I truly feel for you and your loved ones.
    May you find peace in HIS embrace.

    Comment by Fiona Lefevre | June 7, 2009

  3. […] the extreme savagery of these attacks as in the case of 45 stab wounds in U.S. Army veteran Michael Scott Goucher’s murder in East Stroudsburg, PA, and Duanna Johnson’s shooting death in Memphis, TN.  The […]

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  4. […] then his body was set afire in a guard shack in the vain attempt to destroy evidence of the murder. Army veteran Michael Scott Goucher was lured into a fatal ambush by local youths near his home in Pennsylvania. These four are […]

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  5. Mike was loved. and by many. i had the pleasure of knowing him in his last years of his life. he will always have a place in my heart and of many others. Mike will never be forgetten. i still send my prayers to him because his death is still a nightmare to me. he was one of my best friends. may he rest in peace.

    Comment by Tara G. | February 18, 2011

  6. […] Private First Class Michael Scott Goucher, a veteran of the Iraq War, was murdered near his home in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on February 4, 2009 by an assailant who stabbed him at least twenty times. Known locally as “Mike on a Bike” by neighbors and friends, Goucher was an assistant organist for a congregation of the United Church of Christ, and Captain of the neighborhood Crime Watch.  He also was a selectively closeted gay man, hiding his sexual orientation from his community. Goucher survived deployment in Iraq, only to meet death at the hands of homophobes back home. […]

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  7. My heart breaks reading about Mike’s death which I learned about through the YouTube video “Remembering Our Lost – The Hate Crime Victims of 2009” posted on channel gaypride247.
    Was the “wooded area off of Snow Hill Road in Price Township, a known cruising area? I feel strongly that death’s like Mike’s can be avoided. Men with homosexual instincts will seek one another. It is the duty of our police and parks commissions to insure our safety and access to privacy. For the greater good, known cruising areas must be designated for special protections. I am sorry for your loss. Peter Oxenhandler .

    Comment by Peter Oxenhandler | April 6, 2012

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