Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay College Student Beaten by Homophobes, Ignored by Oklahoma Police

Claremore, OK – A 24-year-old gay college student was beaten late last month by three men screaming anti-gay slurs as he took out the trash at his apartment complex.  Phillip Nelson, an out and open gay man, was jumped and thrashed in the quiet town of Claremore, approximately a half hour drive north of Tulsa.  Investigators have basically blown off the incident, leaving Nelson emotionally wounded in addition to his physical injuries (see photo at left). EDGE reports that Nelson is struggling to cope with the combination of brutal attack and police indifference to a hate crime against him.  “I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back,” Nelson said during an EDGE interview. “No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they’re kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it.” Media coverage outside the gay blogosphere has been sparce.  Besides the EDGE report, which according to Michael Lavers grew from a tip given by one of their readers, only one other story has appeared in the news media.  Oklahoma lawmakers aver that laws protecting LGBT people are not needed in their state, and in a notorious move by State Senator Steve Russell, legislation has been introduced to circumvent the James Bryd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The Oklahoma House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill, which passed the State Senate last month.  Nelson’s case is a clear reason why protection statutes for LGBT Oklahomans is urgently needed.  Nelson’s three attackers who remain unapprehended by local police as of this writing, assaulted him while screaming “You are going to die!” and “Faggot!” leaving him with multiple bruises and cuts on his face and over his body.  Days later, his antagonists broke into Nelson’s apartment and scrawled “Fag” on the walls. Though Nelson reported the beating to Claremore police, no police report of the attack was filed until Nelson called in law enforcement for the break-in.  Then, in what may have been an attempt to cover their tracks, the police insisted that Nelson file separate reports on both crimes.  The whole ordeal has shaken Nelson, but as he told EDGE, he has had to face homophobia all his young life. “I’ve been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it,” he said. “I just got numb from a lot of things. I’m happy with myself and that’s all that matters.” LGBT Oklahomans grow tough in the Sooner State.  They have to.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, death threats, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Slurs and epithets, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Florida Lesbian Murdered by Girlfriend’s Father

Jerry Lee Seger, accused of the murder of his daughter's lesbian lover

Lakeland, FL – A man has been arrested Saturday for the murder of his daughter’s lesbian lover whose lifeless body was found in a foreclosed home.  Real estate agents discovered the body of 24-year-old Courtney Bright last Thursday as they opened the property to show it to a prospective buyer.  The Polk County Coroner reports that the victim had been strangled to death on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Jerry Lee Seger, 40, has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held in the Polk County jail without bond, according to My Fox Tampa Bay. Bright had been in a romantic relationship with Seger’s 23-year-old daughter, Ashley Dunn, for approximately three years.  Dunn had been arrested Tuesday of last week for dealing in stolen property on a Jackson County warrant.  As has been the case in other Polk County LGBT murders, notably the brutal slaying of Ryan Keith Skipper in 2007, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department is constructing a non-gay-related scenario for the crime.  Polk County, a largely rural locale situated between Tampa and Orlando in the center of the state, is notorious for poor treatment of its LGBT residents.  Revenge against Bright for his daughter’s arrest is the story being floated to the press.  Bright’s friend, Bobbi Johnson, however, isn’t buying the Sheriff’s theory.  Johnson told My Fox Tampa reporter Alcides Segui, that Bright was like a daughter to her.  “She was a sweetheart. She would do anything in the world for you,” she said.  “I know [Seger] was upset because Ashely was arrested,” Johnson said. “That’s not why he killed her. He killed her because they were lesbians.” The Sheriff’s Department theory relies on hearsay from a friend of Seger’s, much like their 2007 theory that Skipper was killed on a lonely Wahneta, FL road because of hearsay reports about drugs and a check-kiting scheme that was later totally debunked, but too late to keep the young man’s character from being besmirched in the press, and also too late to prevent the story from going national.  Skipper’s murderers, Joseph “Smiley” Bearden and William “Bill Bill” Brown were found guilty and are serving their sentences with no hope of parole. Veteran Florida LGBT activists and allies familiar with the Skipper case are watching the Bright murder case closely for signs of the same anti-gay spin from the local authorities.  Scott Hall, founder of the South Florida-based Gay American Heroes Foundation, says, “We must hold those who attack and murder us responsible and call it what it is… a hate crime!”

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Strangulation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico

Ashley Santiago's family learns of her murder; Israel González photo for Prima Hora

Corozal, Puerto Rico – The Washington Post reports that scores of sobbing mourners wearing tee shirts emblazoned with the likeness of Ashley Santiago Ocasio attended her funeral Friday in the central mountain town of Corozal.  Her mother, Carmen Ocasio, told reporters from Prima Hora that her 31-year-old transgender daughter had no enemies she was aware of, no one she could imagine taking her life.  “I lost my daughter,” she said. “I’m in shock. Why would someone kill Ashley, why?”  Authorities are still searching for a lead in the case, but as the LGBT community in Puerto Rico has come to expect, authorities have not invoked the 2002 hate crime statute that would send a convicted killer to prison for life.  Though the drumbeat of pressure is mounting for prosecutors to apply the unused hate crimes law to LGBT victims, prospects for doing so in this case do not look promising.  Pedro Julio Serrano, spokesperson for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Puerto Rico, points out that five recent crimes should have been designated terror-attacks against not only the victims, but the entire LGBT population.  Hate crimes against members of the sexual minority are “message-crimes,” meant to drive the LGBT community into fear and hiding.  As Serrano notes, one of the five recent cases was the November 2009 decapitation, dismemberment, and immolation of gay teen Jorge Steven López Mercado in Caguas.  A charge of first-degree murder has been filed against the youth’s alleged killer, but the hate crime statute has not been invoked even in a slaughter so gruesome as this.  In the Santiago case, police are speculating that robbery may have been a motive in the slaying of the popular, attractive beauty salon owner.  Two evidentiary aspects of the investigation so far seem to argue against a robbery motive alone, however.  First, Ms. Santiago’s home showed no signs of breaking and entering.  Someone she knew probably carried out the murder. Even though her automobile was taken from the scene, as Pedro Serrano observed to the Post, “The law is very clear and we’re asking authorities to investigate without prejudice. Even if Ashley’s death was also a robbery, there could be the angle of hate. We need that to be investigated,” Serrano emphasized to the Post.  The chief investigator has promised to used the Puerto Rican hate crimes law “if the evidence warrants it.”  The second aspect of the murder that suggests Serrano is right, that hate against Ms. Santiago was probably a factor is the extreme nature of the crime scene.  There was so much blood, so widely pooled and spattered, that police believed from the beginning of the investigation that the victim had been stabbed multiple times, hardly likely for a robbery alone.  The overkill typical of anti-LGBT crimes is clearly present in the Santiago slaying. The community of Corozal is stunned in the wake of their most notorious murder.  Ms. Santiago was well-liked in town, confident that her transition was the fulfillment of herself as a person.  She had commenced hormone therapy, and had undergone breast surgery, according to Serrano.  The usually neglected Transgender Community on the Caribbean island paradise is waiting for a break in the case, and firmly demanding justice for their sister Ashley.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Decapitation and dismemberment, funerals, gay teens, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Puerto Rico, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Grief and Outrage Over Transgender Murder in Puerto Rico


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