Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay IUB Professor Stabbed To Death In His Home: Confessed Killer Uses Gay Panic Defense

Griffin (L) and Belton (R), AP photo

Bloomington, IN – Professor Don Belton, 53, a gifted writer and author in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Indiana University-Bloomington, was found murdered in his home on Sunday, December 27.  His body had been stabbed repeatedly in the back and in the side.  A suspect who confessed to the murder has been arrested and charged with murder: Michael Griffin, a 25 year old white Marine who had recently been deployed in Iraq.  Griffin is being held without bail at the Monroe County Jail in Bloomington. Prof. Belton reportedly considered Griffin to be a friend.  According to sources in the university community, Griffin is using a version of the “gay panic defense” to justify his actions.  The suspect alleges that Prof. Belton sexually assaulted  him twice on Christmas Day, and “refused to apologize for it,” according to ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. A faculty source says this is most unlikely.  “We deplore the cowardice of such a claim in the face of the open-heartedness of such a man as Don,” the faculty colleague said.  The Indiana University News Room issued this statement from Provost of the University, Dr. Karen Hanson: “Assistant Professor Don Belton was an important African-American writer specializing in fiction and nonfiction who began teaching at IU Bloomington in fall 2008,” said Provost Karen Hanson. “He was a generous and talented professor who had much potential. We were shocked and saddened by his death.”  The case was cracked when investigators located a note on a 4″x6″ card beside Prof. Belton’s home computer addressed to a person named “Griffin” containing an e-mail address, a phone number, and  directions to the Belton home.  Police worked with officers in Batesville, IN, who informed the Bloomington PD that a girlfriend of Griffin’s had phoned in to say she believed her lover was involved in the murder.  The arrest was made at Griffin’s home, where he lived with his 2-year-old son.  Griffin confessed that he had gone to Belton’s home in his girlfriend’s pickup truck to confront him about the alleged sexual incidents.  When Belton showed no remorse and offered no apology, Griffin said he stabbed Belton “until he quit moving.”  He then stripped from his bloody clothes in the truck, apparently having taken a change of clothes with him.  Griffin said he put the bloody clothes in a plastic trash bag, and threw them in a dumpster.  The knife believed to be the murder weapon, a ten-inch blade issued by the military called a “Peace-keeper,” was found at Griffin’s residence.   A personal journal was discovered at the crime scene with an entry by Prof. Belton indicating that he was grateful that “Michael” had come into his life.  Bloomington police have not made a determination about whether any alleged sexual activity between the two men was consensual or not, but are dealing with the murder as a “crime of anger or passion.”  Though decisively discredited as a courtroom tactic, the “gay panic defense” is often used by killers to explain or defend their lethal actions.  Until confirmation from other sources can be determined, allegations of “sexual assault” need to be treated with suspicion, since the only source claiming such harassment is the suspect in question.  The victim is unable to defend himself against the charge.  Besmirching the character of a deceased gay person is routinely part of the so-called defense, often an attempt to tap into the cultural or religious prejudice against gay men in a community, thereby winning sympathy for the killer.  The interjection of a child and a girlfriend into the news stories also tends to win sympathy for the suspect who may have been essentially heterosexual and then “wandered a bit.”   Prof. Belton was a noted writer, the author of the acclaimed novel, Almost Midnight, and the editor of Speak My Name, an anthology of essays exploring the disparity between real and imagined representations of black male sexuality, according to his faculty web page at IUB.  IU English Department chairman Jonathan Elmer said of his person and his work, “His great talents as a writer, his extraordinary generosity to his students, and his warmth of personality were gifts to us all. We will miss him terribly,” as reported in The Indiana Daily Student.  A community vigil honoring Prof. Belton was held Friday night, January 1 at the Monroe County Courthouse.


January 2, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, gay men, gay panic defense, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Indiana, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, stabbings, U.S. Marines, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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