Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Methodist Preacher and Boyfriend Attacked in Atlanta

Rev. Josh Noblitt (St. Mark UMC photo)

Piedmont Park, Atlanta, Georgia – A gay United Methodist minister and his boyfriend were attacked and robbed on July 2 at at picnic in the park.  Rev. Josh Noblitt, 32, Social Justice Minister at St. Mark United Methodist Church, and Trent Williams, 25, were just finishing up their picnic and had started playing cards when six young men approached the couple asking if they were gay.  Jarvis Johnson, 19, Sam Johnson, 18 and four other males between the ages of 13-17 allegedly began threatening them at that point, saying “Y’all gay? We ought to beat y’all for that.”  Then three members of the gang physically attacked Noblitt and Williams, demanding money.  One of them wielded a large stick, according to The Examiner.   Noblitt and Williams proved not to be the easy marks their robbers expect two gay men to be.  Williams, Noblitt’s partner, knew karate and kicked the assailants in the face. Thwarted, the attackers fled, and Rev. Noblitt called 911 to report the attack.  Then, “out of nowhere,” as Noblitt said to the GA Voice, 8 to 10 youths rushed up to surround the pair.  At one point, one of the assailants pressed a loaded pistol to Rev. Noblitt’s head.  Hearing sirens, the gang broke off the attack and attempted to escape.  When Atlanta Police arrived on the scene, they found some of the youths hiding behind a building, and six suspects were rounded up.  The two adults were arrested and are being held in the Fulton County Jail  Atlanta PD sources say that the suspects were also involved in a series of robberies in and around the park.  As the minister said to the GA Voice, “Sometimes we live in a bubble, but right here in Midtown a hate crime can happen.”  Rev. Noblitt, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, has wrestled with the meaning of what happened to him and his lover in the park.  In an open letter to the St. Mark congregation read to worshippers on July 11, he said, “Over this past week, I have spent a lot of that time thinking about the young men I encountered in the park, and I am sure they have thought a lot about me. I wonder how people so young could have found themselves in a position to make the decision to assault and rob people that they perceived to be gay and not think through the harm that it would cause to us, to the community and to themselves.” Noblitt went on to say, “Do they really hate me and people like me? Or do they merely think that we are easy targets? What led them to ask us if we were gay and then to conclude without even waiting for a response that we should be beaten for that? Would they still have approached us if we had been a man and a woman? Would they still have approached us if we were two men of the same race? Where did they even get these ideas in the first place?” The full text of the open letter may be seen here. What amounted to be a very close call for the couple could easily have taken a lethal turn.  Rev. Noblitt continues to rely on his faith to make sense of the assault, and to put his life back together again, as the young African American men face the legal system.  It is not clear whether this attack will be investigated as a hate crime.

July 24, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, Georgia, gun violence, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, St. Mark United Methodist Church Atlanta | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Slayer of Gay Opera Singers Faces Execution in Texas

Derrick L. Jackson, TDCJ photo

Huntsville, TX – On July 20, Derrick L. Jackson, 42, is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the 1988 double homicide of two gay men from Houston.  Jackson maintains his innocence, claiming to have been framed in order to solve the cold case.  According to the Houston Chronicle, the exceptionally brutal murders of Forrest Henderson and his house-guest, Richard Alan Wrotenbery, both 31, panicked the world of the Houston Grand Opera when the story of their deaths hit media in September 1988.  Both men sang tenor for the opera, and had been rehearsing Bizet’s Carmen the night before the atrocity.  Wrotenbery, by vocation a first-grade music teacher at Deer Park School, had just divorced his wife, and had accepted a room with Henderson until he could get a place of his own arranged.  After the rehearsal on September 10, Wrotenbery went back to the apartment to rest, and Henderson hit the bars in the Montrose section.  Apparently, he invited Jackson home with him.  Loud music was heard coming from the apartment late into the night, and around 4 a.m., neighbors heard a man scream loudly, “Oh my God! No! No!”  It was not until the school district contacted the apartment complex looking for Wrotenbery who had not shown up for work that the bodies of the victims were found.  Investigators remember the volume of blood in the apartment as excessive, even for a stabbing/slashing murder.  Henderson’s naked body was found stabbed repeatedly in the chest.  Wrotenbery, whom authorities presume was asleep at the time of the attack, had his throat slit.  Both men had extensive bludgeoning wounds that were most likely delivered with a heavy metal bar from an exercise set.  Henderson’s wallet was stolen as well as his car, and Wrotenbery’s wallet was also missing.  When the car was spotted the next day by Houston Police, a high-speed chase ensued until the car crashed near an apartment complex, where the driver, presumably Jackson, made his escape on foot.  The case went cold for seven years, until forensic science improved enough in 1995 to match a bloody hand print lifted from a door knob to Jackson, already serving 12 years for a string of home burglaries and other crimes.  Wrotenbery’s father, a former librarian from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, is ambivalent about the death penalty, but intends to witness the execution of his son’s killer.  He said to the Houston Chronicle, “When you come to the personal aspect of it, pure logic says for someone to do a crime of this nature, unprovoked — Alan was in the wrong place at the wrong time — it’s hard for me to think the death penalty is unjustified.” Bill Hawkins, a Harris County District Attorney who prosecuted Jackson for the murders, told the Dallas Morning News,”The scientific evidence was extremely strong. And subsequent defense testing of DNA had his numbers.” Jackson told the press that while he admitted robberies and auto theft in other cases, he never killed these two gay men.  According to the Dallas Voice, Jackson will be the 15th person to be executed by the state of Texas this year.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, multiple homicide, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gays Murdered at 2nd Highest Level in a Decade

New York, New York – Anti-gay hate crime murders reported for 2009 spiked up to the second highest level in a decade, according to the recent Hate Crimes Statistics Report of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). The press release in its entirety may be found here.  22 murders of LGBT people were reported by law enforcement agencies around the nation last year. Communities of color and transgender persons were the hardest hit, a grim trend to watch carefully in the coming months.  79% of anti-gay murder victims were people of color, and the majority of them were transgender women.  The vast majority of attackers were men (77%) and were strangers to the victims they attacked (40%).  Community United Against Violence’s Maria Carolina Morales noted in a conference call with the Bay Area Reporter that there continues to be “severe and persistent violence” against LGBTQ communities.”  Ms. Morales, based in San Francisco, emphasized that “people of color, transgender women, and others continue to be disproportionately targeted for violence.” The report of the NCAVP shows that the highest incidence of physical attacks against LGBTQ people took place in October 2009 to coincide with the passage of Federal Hate Crimes legislation, the James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  The heightened media profile of the gay community is thought to account for the spike in numbers. As the press release states, there is a troubling correlation between “increased visibility and increased vulnerability.” Another alarming finding is that though the total of 2009 anti-gay hate crimes reports has dropped around 12% over the previous year, the NCAVP believes this does not mean that the actual numbers of physical bias attacks lessened last year.  The drop took place because of cut-backs in funding to support reporting at the state and local levels.  Lisa Gilmore of Community United Against Violence, a San Francisco-based organization reporting in this year’s findings, told the Bay Area Reporter, “During the past year, NCAVP member organizations lost crucial staff and programming in the wake of the [national] fiscal crisis…We believe that this drastically limited the ability of LGBTQ people to report violence and access support.”  The NCAVP report made several recommendations for the coming year, including restoring funding to local, state and federal anti-violence programs, community-initiated efforts, and deliberate and consistent inclusion of LGBTQ people in research studies.

July 17, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gays Murdered at 2nd Highest Level in a Decade

Terlingua Hate Rapists Still Unpunished

Boathouse Bar, Terlingua, Texas where two alleged rapists kidnapped their victim (Stephen Sprinkle photo)

Brewster County, Texas – Two alleged power rapists in Far West Texas, jailed since December 2009, have yet to face pre-trial proceedings in the abduction and repeated rape of a high school senior from Terlingua.  Terlingua, near the Mexico border and Big Bend National Park, is remote–80 miles from Alpine, and 330 miles from El Paso.  On the night of December 6-7, 2009, Daniel Martinez, 46, and Kristapher Buchanan, 27, allegedly abducted an 18 year old bisexual male at a bar and game room, stole the car he was living in, and traveled into the far desert to a shack in the Terlingua Ranch section of Brewster County where they brutally beat, demeaned and sexually assaulted their victim as they shouted anti-gay epithets.  The assailants torched the victim’s car, burning up all his worldly possessions.  As the young man tried to retrieve precious items, he was severely burned.  After a second round of brutal rape, the attackers sunk into a drunken stupor, allowing the victim to escape into the desert at about 2 AM.  He walked over three miles in the pitch dark through rough desert terrain wearing flip flops, pajama bottoms, and a tattered tee shirt in freezing temperature, finally making it to Highway 118 where a Sheriff’s Deputy found him and transported him to medical attention in Alpine.  The identity of the victim is protected under Texas law since he was the victim of a sexual assault, and the case against his alleged assailants is still in process.  Power-rape has been employed since time immemorial to subdue and shame victims.  Residents of the area believe the assailants have a pattern of such activity involving young victims, and reports suggest the pair have used alcohol and intimidation to harm at least one 15-year-old boy in the region, as well.  Although the case has the classic marks of an anti-gay hate crime, law enforcement has not filed charges under the Texas hate crimes law, named for James Byrd, Jr. as is the federal law now in force.  Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, professor at Brite Divinity School and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, traveled to Brewster County to carry out a “ministry of presence” to officials involved in the case.  Knox and Sprinkle arrived in Brewster County on July 7 and spent three days interviewing citizens and calling on authorities in order to communicate the interest of Texas and the nation in the hate crime, and in the welfare of the young victim.  Clarence Russeau, Community Education and Outreach Specialist with the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend, Inc. of Alpine and Terlingua, hosted Knox and Sprinkle, arranged appointments in the region, and served as guide throughout the visit.  The trio visited the Alpine office of Texas State Representative Pete Gallego, 20 year veteran of the Texas Legislature, Jesse Gonzales, District Attorney in the case at his Fort Stockton office, President Ricardo Maestas of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, attorney for the victim, Jennie Fannin at her Alpine office, and the Terlingua branch of the Family Crisis Center where they met with Director Lovika De Koninck.  At each stop, Knox, Sprinkle and Russeau emphasized the need for the community to hold local school, law enforcement, and higher education officials to a high standard of accountability in the hate crime case.  Citizens of Terlingua told the visitors that the victim was well-known to them, and he has their full support as he recovers from his trauma. Over 200 residents of Terlingua protested the low bail assigned to the young victim’s alleged assailants, and sent a petition to the district attorney demanding the bail be raised.  Ms. De Koninck said that the young man would have a warm welcome when he returns to Terlingua. Citizens told the trio that the victim had been shunned by his family because of his sexual orientation, and though he had only his car to live in, he continued to support himself with a job at a local café, and faithfully attended school.  Initially, however, the superintendent of schools in Terlingua, Kathy Killingsworth, allegedly ordered the victim to leave school before he could graduate because she did not want his orientation or the crime perpetrated against him to be discussed in the schools she oversaw.  Due to pressure from the community, the superintendent, who is also a Brewster County Commissioner, apparently reconsidered her position, and will now allow the victim to complete requirements for his diploma, according to local reports.  No trial date has yet been set in the case, though the district attorney suggests that it will be before the end of the year.  Both the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have been notified about the crime.  Knox and Sprinkle have pledged to monitor the situation from Dallas and Washington, and communicate with officials regularly to ensure care for the young hate crime victim and a speedy and just trial for the defendants in the case.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Brewster County Texas, Bullying in schools, FBI, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Kidnapping and sexual assault, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, rape, Social Justice Advocacy, Terlingua, Texas, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Remembering Charlie Howard: Murdered 26 Years Ago

Remembering Charlie Howard on State Street Bridge, Bangor Daily News Photo

Bangor, ME – Charles O. “Charlie” Howard was drowned to death by three young men at 10 p.m. on July 7, 1984.  His murder was the first full-blown hate crime murder against a gay person to be recognized as such in all of New England, if not the whole United States.  The young men, Shawn Mabry, 16, Jim Baines, 15, and Daniel Ness, 17, ran him down on the State Street Bridge in the heart of downtown Bangor, beat and kicked him brutally, and then heaved him over the the railing into the Kenduskeag Stream below.  Charlie screamed that he didn’t know how to swim.  At 12:10 a.m. the next morning, police rescuers found his drowned body a few hundred feet from the bridge.  A large eel had wrapped itself around his lifeless neck.  An autopsy confirmed that he died of drowning, most probably hastened by a severe attack of asthma, a disease that had plagued Charlie all his life.  He was 23 years old.  The young attackers spent one night in jail, and then were released without bond into the custody of their parents.  LGBT folk and their allies were galvanized by the murder of one of their own, and a fledgling equality organization started in the state in Charlie’s memory.  Mabry, Baines and Ness were tried as juveniles, and sentenced to an “indeterminate term” in Maine Youth facilities in South Portland.  Because of the nature of the law for juveniles, the convicts had to be released by their 21st birthdays.  Mabry and Ness served 21 months apiece.  Baines, the youngest, served two years.  Fourteen years later, in 1998, Matthew Shepard was murdered on a ridge overlooking Laramie, WY, also because he was gay.  Without what had been learned so painfully in the loss of Charlie Howard, there might very well have been no frame of reference for what happened to Matt.  Echoes of Charlie Howard still reverberate in Maine.  Bangor voted a non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people.  Laramie has not done so yet.  Maine has a state hate crime law on the books, and the government is fairly scrupulous in enforcing it.  Wyoming has never passed such a law protecting its LGBT citizens.  Supporters finally won permission to erect a monument to Charlie near the bridge where he died.  There is no such monument remembering Matt in Laramie.  Matthew Shepard’s story is know around the world.  Charlie Howard’s has remained pretty much a New England story.  But Charlie’s story has changed lives for the better.  And in sheer effect, his supporters have won more respect and practical protection for LGBT people in Maine and New England than Matt’s has yet to achieve in the nation as a whole.  We at the Unfinished Lives Project remember lovely, goofy, maddening, flaming, edgy, and graciously generous Charlie Howard today.  He did not die in vain.  We must work to see to that, for him and for all the sons and daughters of America who died just because of who they were and whom they loved.  Rest well, sweet brother.  We have not forgotten you.

July 7, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, drowning, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Maine, Matthew Shepard, Monuments and markers, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bigot Watch: Rush Limbaugh on ‘Gay Gene,’ Abortion and Gay Babies

How many groups does this screed by Rush Limbaugh injure and offend?  Limbaugh pontificated in 2003 on how the hypothetical discovery of a “gay gene” would cancel LGBTQ support for women’s right to choose.  On the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Limbaugh launched this broadside (see Joe Kovacs, World Net Daily.com:

    “Imagine we identify the gene – assuming that there is one, this is hypothetical – that will tell us prior to birth that a baby is going to be gay. Just like a baby is gonna be redheaded and freckled and maybe tend to be overweight and so we tell the parents that, and the parents say “Nope, don’t wanna give birth to that child, [it’s] not gonna have a fair chance. Who wants to give birth to an overweight, freckle-faced redhead?” Bam. So we abort the kid.“Well, you add to this, let’s say we discover the gene that says the kid’s gonna be gay. How many parents, if they knew before the kid was gonna be born, [that he] was gonna be gay, they would take the pregnancy to term? Well, you don’t know but let’s say half of them said, “Oh, no, I don’t wanna do that to a kid.” [Then the] gay community finds out about this. The gay community would do the fastest 180 and become pro-life faster than anybody you’ve ever seen. … They’d be so against abortion if it was discovered that you could abort what you knew were gonna be gay babies.”

Limbaugh climbed up the ladder of notoriety on the backs of African Americans, women, and gay people.  As L.A. Progressive documents, “The Lyin’ King” compared White House staffers to pedophiles, feminists to “lesbian spearchuckers,” and in this choice quote from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he draws a bead directly on LGBTQ people:  “When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it’s an invitation.” In June 2010, Limbaugh made news by securing gay entertainer, Elton John, to perform at his fourth wedding, leading some to suggest that the conservative icon had become ‘gay friendly.’  Hardly.  He was a dangerous demagogue before sealing the deal with Elton John, and he remains one after.  The only thing that is put in doubt by the ‘wedding singer’ incident is the quality of Mr. John’s judgment.  Rush Limbaugh sets the tone for his legion of Dittoheads and for conservative opposition to all things LGBTQ.  The cynicism of his scenario on gay genetics, women’s right to choose, and gay babies is boundless, in our opinion.  Women have been and remain the chief allies of the LGBTQ community in the struggle for equal rights in the United States.  Lesbian scholar Suzanne Pharr got it exactly right when she wrote that “homophobia is a weapon of sexism.”  Limbaugh may love women enough to marry four of them in a row, but he advocates the second-class status of the gender he claims to love “till death do us part.”  When rhetoric dehumanizes people, robbing them of the dignity of their full personhood as Limbaugh routinely does to gay people, his is culpable for setting the conditions for hate crimes against the very gay babies he demagogues about on the radio.  When LGBTQ people grow up, face discrimination and irrational hatred, Rush simply washes his hands of any violence done them.  And, in the case of the gay baby scenario he set forth, we must ask the nagging question he left unanswered: “If a test were devised to ID a baby as LGBTQ before birth, Rush, how quickly would you and your supporters flip and become advocates of abortion?”   ~ The Unfinished Lives Team

July 4, 2010 Posted by | abortion, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Elton John, gay gene, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, Media Issues, Politics, Popular Culture, Racism, Roe v Wade, Rush Limbaugh, Slurs and epithets, Special Comments, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


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