Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Richard Hernandez’s Alleged Murderer Incompetent to Stand Trial?

Richard Hernandez (l), and Seth Winder, courtesy of Dallas Voice

Richard Hernandez (l), and Seth Winder, courtesy of Dallas Voice

Denton, TX: Seth Winder, 29, prime suspect in the horrific dismemberment of out gay Dallasite, Richard Hernandez, has been ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and is being remanded to a mental health facility for treatment.

silence-of-the-lambs-adv-c

Hernandez, out gay resident of a portion of far north Dallas in Denton County, was slain in a grisly, Silence-of-the-Lambs-style fashion in his apartment in early September 2008.  Investigators found tissue from Hernandez’s internal organs in a bathtub, but his body has never been found.  Informed sources speculate that his dismembered body was disposed of in a Dumpster, and subsequently buried in a landfill.

Winder was first suspected of the murder when he allegedly used debit cards belonging to Hernandez some days after the murder.  Blood-coated evidence was found by police at two campsites where Winder spent time.  They also recovered a camera in Winder’s father’s home that preserved “pornographic images” of Seth Winder in Hernandez’s apartment.

Derek Adame, Winder’s court-appointed defense attorney, told reporters that his client was being sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment because he seemed not to understand the charges against him and had trouble communicating to build a defense on his behalf.  A Denton County judge ordered the committal, finding Seth Winder mentally “incompetent with a probability of recovery.”

Winder’s father, Rodney Winder, estranged from his son because of what he described as Seth’s “schizophrenia,” says that he tried unsuccessfully to get Seth committed for years because of his behavior.  His father related Seth’s obsession with knives, and his disturbing pattern of chopping up snakes, spreading the pieces on the lawn at his father’s house.

Michel Foucault, French 20th c. philosopher

Michel Foucault, French 20th c. philosopher

Michel Foucault, the renowned French philosopher, was among the first to note the role madness plays in recent history.  In his works, Madness and Civilization, and History of Madness, Foucault makes the point that madness is a social construct reflecting each era’s notions of what is pathological.  What we call “sanity” may well be the sum of all of our societal madness.  If Seth Winder is proven to have cut Richard Hernandez to pieces, we are left to wonder what role the homophobia of church and society played in his actions.  Foucault suggests that social depravity is a perverse implantation.  As long as homophobia is part of the social fabric of American life, the line between “sane” killers of LGBT people and “insane” ones will remain blurred.

English madhouse, 18th c., by William Hogarth

English madhouse, 18th c., by William Hogarth

To his father, Seth Winder’s madness is “bona fide,” as he told the press.  To friends and relatives of Richard Hernandez, his madness is crazy like a fox. Rudy Araiza, gay longtime friend of Hernandez, told John Wright of the Dallas Voice, “I honestly believe that he knew what he was doing, and now this is his way of not paying for his actions or serving time.  This guy is just buying himself some time.”

When will Seth Winder be competent to participate in his own defense and to stand trial?  Psychiatrists will have to make that determination to the satisfaction of a judge.  This case points up the symptoms of a society so ill that it may determine an individual delusional when he dismembers a gay man, but may go on to accept the everyday irrational hatred of LGBT people as moral and sane.  Until a final judgement is made on the mental capacity of Seth Winder, there is one thing both his father and Hernandez’s friends agree upon: he must remain behind bars [Thanks to Dallas Voice journalist John Wright for fine reporting on this story].

April 27, 2009 - Posted by | Decapitation and dismemberment, Evisceration, gay men, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Texas, Torture and Mutilation

27 Comments

  1. I find it fascinating that we continue to seek ways to demonstrate that those we commit violent crimes cannot be “like us”–they surely must be insane. In a class I took some time ago, so I can’t cite the source–sorry, it was clearly noted that most violent offenders are sane, and just like us.

    I think institutions, and thereby individuals, work very hard in our culture to define who’s in and who’s out. This curious focus on hierarchy and who’s at the top is mind boggling.

    Thanks for your work, Steve.

    Comment by Lorna | April 28, 2009

  2. I want to say that I do realize that there is a lot of hatred and animosity in our society against the gay community. I have also seen a lot of outright racism against our new president. I have been taken aback by some comments I have seen on certain websites.

    On the other hand, in this particular case, I know from being personallly involved with Seth’s family, that long before Mr. Hernandez was murdered, Seth had demonstrable mental illnes.. He had been discharged from teh army in 2005 for schizotypal personality disorder and had shortly after that attempted to strangle his own mother. I personally saw the snake pieces in the yard, the weird knife fascination, the belief in voodoo or magic, the paraphenalia left behind, etc. I had personally sought the advice from mental health professionals I knew long before this happnened, gone to the police and sheriff’s office time and again. His father constantly asked for help, I tried with him over and over to get something done. I always knew that something really bad would happen one day. We were always told that nothing could be done unless he threatened someone or threatened to harm himself. He was an adult and had to seek treatment for himself. Our system is really broken in Texas. Our laws should be changed. Its a problem in society all over our country. Sorry to say a lot of our homeless population are mentally ill people. I’m not excusing Seth’s actions at all. I’m not denying that there are hate crimes against the gay community. I am sayng that having been very close to this situation that Seth is schizophrenic. His family is very sorry about what happend as am I. I do want to say that there were many, many attempts made before this happened to get help for Seth. He would not seek it himself. We discussed the problem and what other things we might possibly be able to try over and over again before this happened. I was very, very concerned, very afraid. I absolutely agree that there is no place in our society for Seth and that he should be locked up for life. I didn’t realize until after this all happened that it was really our laws that needed to be changed. I hope someday our legislators will listen. I have repreatedly contacted my legislators over this issue, started a petition, etc. I really don’t know what else to do. I hope someday some things will finally change. At least we have a president in office now who cares more about social issues.

    Comment by Karen | April 28, 2009

    • Karen, I do not dispute the diagnosis that mental health professionals may make for Mr. Winder. I have no reason not to believe that what you say is true. My point, as the article states, is that society embeds lethal ideas in the very fabric of how we think. Women have been victims of this for untold centuries, as long as cultural norms make women second class and vulnerable. LGBT people are so reviled in our society that it does not surprise me that someone could act on norms lodged in his consciousness that suggest somehow that a gay man should die. I have no way of knowing what transpired between Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Winder. But I do know that someone predisposed to act because of mental condition or whatever has plenty of prejudice against certain populations at hand to seed such an action. I pray Mr. Winder gets all the help and expertise available. His culpability will be decided in court, I imagine. But until our society decides to change its laws, as you suggest, and until pathological hatred is exposed for what it actually is, there will be many more violent deaths like this, I fear. I appreciate your commitment to change, and your compassion for Mr. Winder and his family.

      Steve

      Comment by unfinishedlives | April 29, 2009

      • I just want to note that Seth was not committing a hate crime as it appears this site intends to infer. Seth is Gay and insane. This is a crime of complete madness. His victims sexual status is irrelevant frankly.

        Comment by Mitch | July 30, 2009

  3. Steve,

    I do know that there is a lot of hatred in society for gays and other vulnerable populations. I have a passion now to change our mental health laws. I decry all injustice in our world. I also hate the way our animals are treated and they are very vulnerable. What I am saying is I really hate the imbalances I see in this world we live in. I feel sorry that Seth is sick, but I’m sympathetic with the victim, Mr. Hernandex, who I had had interactions with at a store he worked at and he was always a very polite person. I found it so odd that I would have had contact with the victim and his murderer. I could never understnad the kind of pathology that exists in a schizophrenic. I was very afraid he would hurt someone in his own family. I’m sorry he hurt anyone at all. I came from a fundamentalist background and I know what kind of things are said about the gay community there. I left it long ago. Its funny too that two of the people I knew in it years ago have both come out, one man and one woman. Way back then, I had no idea they were really gay, but I guess they probably knew and felt they had to fight it. My daughter’s father actually turned out to be gay. I guess when we were together, he was probably trying to deny it too. I have no idea how to fix our society. I can try to do a little bit,but it probably doesn’t make much difference. I have no idea what went on or goes on in Seth’s head. I mostly just tried to stay away form him because he scared me. I’m his father’s gf and I just saw his father going through so much pain with Seth before this happened and so wanted to help. There has been a lot of pain caused by his actions and no one in his family would have ever wanted anyone hurt or killed. We’re all so sorry, but no one really knows what to do in this kind of situation. I guess that is why I took up the cause of trying to change our mental health laws. I didn’t know what else to do and thought maybe it could help someone down the road. Its just very tragic all around. I understand your point. Change seems so slow.

    Comment by Karen | April 30, 2009

    • Miss Gianna, do you really think from where you are sitting you can make allegations about this mans family and how they feel about their son through glimps’ you heard or saw from media? People mourn and cope with trageties differently, I do not think its proper to state because he was gay they expected something to happen to him, were any of us there to know the things that were said btw the investigators and the family. Unless there is someone who knew his family and knew they felt that way then we shouldnt rush to judge the victims.

      Comment by jerry conley | November 6, 2009

  4. Hi – I am really glad you wrote this article. I just saw the investigation on A&E about this case. I was really saddened that in the end, it didn’t seem like his family was that upset their son/brother was killed; the way his sister immediately said “Well he’s gay” to the detective, when he asked if there’s anything she could tell him about her brother, bothered me. Then she followed it up by saying “that’s all he has, his work and his home.” It was like, that’s how she defined her brother, as simply gay (and her tone was definitely had some negative connotations, I thought). And the family should have been going nuts when they had that conversation with the detective; instead the mom only cried a little, and the sister and the dad were even seen smiling when they left the police station. It was like they had this backward attitude, “well he’s gay, we told him not to be gay, and since he decided to be gay, well he was bound to run into some bad people.” Like they were almost expecting some type of horrific crime to happen to him because he was gay? It was horrible. I thought, wow, this crime goes seemingly unnoticed, and the public doesn’t even pour out any sympathy (not to mention his own family), because the dude was gay, somehow a child of a lesser god. It really pissed me off all in all. I am straight female who can’t stand the bigotry – am I alone?

    Comment by Gianna | August 1, 2009

    • Not at all, Gianna. You are among many. This web site has had hundreds of hits about Richard Hernandez’s murder. The family must come to terms with this horror any way they can. But in the end, his friends will bear the brunt of the loss just as much. That is the experience I have had visiting friends and family of other LGBT hate crimes murder victims. I am glad you are outraged. So am I. What we can do it let our representatives and senators know that it is time to pass the Matthew Shepard Act. Best to you always.

      Comment by unfinishedlives | August 1, 2009

    • Miss Gianna, Do you think its appropriate from where you are sitting to be making allegation about this mans family, about their relationship how they felt about him or him being gay? People mourn and cope with things in different ways and Im sure youre speaking from glimps’ you saw in the media which do i really need to say is not usually accurate to the truth. noone but the investigators and the family know what was said btw them. Unless someone knows these people and knew they felt because he was gay something would happen to him or hed run into bad people then I dont think anyone should be attacking the victims.

      Comment by jack riley | November 6, 2009

  5. I dont think this was any sort of hate crime the two knew eachother obviously, there were pictures of him jerking off for the camera which i assume richard was the one taking. The kid is crazy. Know one knows what set him off or if he even was set off by richard but my guess is richard tried to make a pass at seth maybe while he was asleep on the couch or something like that. maybe seth didnt want richard like that and he probably fliped when richard tried to take it a step further. I could be wrong bout the way it went down but this was definitly not a hate crime. Just cause a gay person was murdered does not give you other gay people just cause to label it as such, try to look outside of youre predispositions and prejudice about everyone hating gay people.

    Comment by tom henley | November 6, 2009

  6. Just a note to say that Seth has been stabilized on meds and his trial is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2010, in Denton County. I think that this time, it is set and I’m assuming there will not be further delays. Of course with our judicial system, who knows for sure.

    Comment by K.R.D. | January 3, 2010

    • Thanks for the update. When you know for sure the trial is going to begin, please let us know.

      Comment by unfinishedlives | January 4, 2010

    • Its been delayed by the court until early May, barring anymore changes that is.

      Comment by EE | February 2, 2010

  7. I hope he IS stabilized and that they regulate his medication. Unfortunately for Seth, schizophrenia is not a suitable defense for murder. They will try for insanity but the jury is going to realize that he knew right from wrong. As for it being a hate crime, I don’t think ANYONE could say for sure, because we weren’t there when it happened.

    Comment by Kee | January 14, 2010

    • Kee,

      I’m sorry but your comment elluding that he knew right from wrong is horribly misinformed. You should take the time to research schizophrenia before you try to make claims about a person’s reasoning abilities with the disease. This was hardly a hate crime either, again, do your research before making ignorant comments.

      Comment by Holly | February 6, 2010

      • “Elluding” is not a word. Why don’t you learn to write in English before you call someone else ignorant?

        Comment by Kee | February 8, 2010

      • I apologize for my late night misspelling error, alluding would have been correct. Regardless of my misspelling your comments regarding schizophrenia are still incorrect.

        Comment by Holly | February 10, 2010

  8. Any news on the case – I read somewhere after watching a rerun of the show “first 48” that a trial-date had been set in early Feb 2010..

    Comment by Jonas | February 9, 2010

    • The trial is reset for May 3, the date was changed from Feb. 8th because the court had to take cases that were filed before Seth’s case that were now ready to proceed.

      Comment by EE | February 10, 2010

  9. Trial reset for January 24, 2011. After many delays, it should proceed.

    Comment by Lisa | September 22, 2010

    • Trial will proceed May 23, 2011. Please check the denton county sheriff’s website for details.

      Comment by Macca | May 15, 2011

      • Did the trial proceed? Just curious to find out the results Thank you.

        Comment by Brian DeCastro | July 16, 2011

      • Dear Brian,

        Not to my knowledge. We are awaiting the trial, too.

        Unfinished Lives

        Comment by unfinishedlives | July 17, 2011

  10. God be with both the Hernandez and Winder families, the 13 jurors who face a very difficult task in the week/s ahead, and the legal representatives who will try the case before the families and jurors. Very unfortunate series of events for all. May our society change both how we view homosexuality, and how we deal with (don’t deal with) persons with serious mental illness.

    Comment by a dismissed juror | November 14, 2011

  11. So does this mean that he will go to trial One day, if ever deemed fit? Or are the plans just to keep him in a mental hospital for the rest of his life? I have been interested in this story after watching the First 48, sometimes I look up the accused after the show to find out if they were ever convicted…

    Comment by brian | November 15, 2011

    • Brian,
      the trial is going on this week, just so you know, started yesterday.

      Comment by anon | November 15, 2011

  12. yeah my name is Richard Hernandez and thats the homie Richard that they killed, just saying that im a thug and ima come after who ever did that to him

    Comment by Richard | September 28, 2012


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