Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

For Courageous Mothers of LGBT Murder Victims, There is No Closure

Pat and Lynn Mulder at USF, Stephen Coddington photo for the Times

Pat and Lynn Mulder at USF, Stephen Coddington photo for the Times

Families of LGBT hate crimes murder victims are on the front lines of grief and loss when a homophobic attack takes the life of someone they love.  This is especially true of their mothers.  That powerful truth was driven home for me again by learning of Pat and Lynn Mulder’s courageous appearance at the Hate Crimes Awareness Summit held this week at the University of South Florida.  Pat shared the story of how her beloved son, Ryan Keith Skipper, lived and died at the hands of brutal, anti-gay attackers in rural Polk County Florida on March 14, 2007.  The popular 25-year-old Skipper was stabbed over 19 times, and left to bleed out on a lonely dirt road in Wahneta, a rural town in the Winter Haven region. One of his murderers, Joseph “Smiley” Bearden has been sentenced to life without parole earlier this year, and a second alleged killer, William D. “Bill Bill” Brown is to stand trial on October 12.  Reporting on the Summit, Alexandra Zayas of the St. Petersburg Times, relates how Pat had to overcome her reluctance and nervousness about speaking in front of crowds about the worst tragedy in her family’s history.  “The worst thing in the world that can happen to you has already happened. There’s nothing else to be afraid of.”  Speaking with passion and the conviction that no family should ever have to endure what hers has, Pat and her husband Lynn have tirelessly reached out to others bereaved by unreasoning hatred.  Barely a year after her son’s murder, Pat traveled to Fort Lauderdale to see Denise King, mother of African American youth Simmie Williams, Jr., who was shot for being transgender by attackers who have not yet been identified or apprehended.  At at town hall meeting dedicated to the memory of 17-year-old Williams, Pat introduced herself to Mrs. King as Ryan’s mother, and enfolded her in an embrace that King later said was deeply meaningful to her.  Speaking to the Times about that moment, Pat said, “It’s beyond being women. It’s beyond being different races, different backgrounds. It has nothing to do with that. It’s the hearts of two mothers,” Pat said. “For a moment, there’s someone who’s helping you hold up your pain.”  The real unsung heroes of the effort to win passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act are women like Pat Mulder and Denise King who became “accidental activists” for the sake of their children who died so senselessly.  Elke Kennedy, mother of Greenville, SC victim, Sean William Kennedy, Pauline Mitchell, mother of Navajo two-spirit son, F.C. Martinez, Jr. of Cortez, CO, Pat Kuteles, mother of U.S. Army Pvt. Barry Winchell, murdered at Fort Campbell, KY, Kathy Jo Gaither, sister of Sylacauga, AL victim Bill Joe Gaither, and, certainly, Judy Shepard of Casper, WY who is currently touring the nation to promote passage of the LGBT hate crimes bill named for her son Matthew, are but a few outstanding examples of women whose love overcame untold obstacles to add their voices to the chorus of Americans, gay and straight, who want anti-queer violence to come to an end forever.  These courageous women and many other family members around the nation have become the most effective spokespersons for human rights because of their unsought-for mission to stamp out hate from the American vocabulary for all people, especially LGBTQ folk who are so much at risk.  How do mothers do it?  Pat Mulder says that for parents of gay murder victims, there is no closure, only the determination to turn up the volume on what hate crimes do to families.

Sprinkle in FL 08

~ Stephen Sprinkle for the Unfinished Lives Project

September 25, 2009 - Posted by | African Americans, Alabama, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Colorado, DADT, Florida, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Latino and Latina Americans, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, military, Native Americans, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, South Carolina, transgender persons, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Inasmuch as you named the other children who were victims, I rather wish you would have included Matthew Shepard’s name when writing about Judy Shepard, even though we might assume his name is universally known. Thanks for all you do.

    Comment by William R. Johnson | September 25, 2009

    • Hi, Bill,
      I had named him earlier in the article, in the line about the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and then hoped my readers would make the connection a few sentences later in the post. But since you believe it may help to add it again, I have done so, happily.

      Comment by unfinishedlives | September 25, 2009

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