Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Anti-Gay Murder, Texas Style: Pearland Teen Bludgeoned to Death, Then Burned

Joshua Wilkerson, 18, bludgeoned to death and partially burned

Pearland, Texas – Joshua Wilkerson, 18, missing for 24 hours after leaving a Pearland school, was found deceased, his body partially immolated in an overgrown field off a desolate stretch of road in Fort Bend County.  Hermilio Moralez, 19, was charged Thursday with the murder, according to a report in the Dallas Voice.  Moralez confessed that he hit Wilkerson with a large wooden rod until “he didn’t move anymore.”  Then Moralez said that he loaded up the corpse, drove the victim’s truck down to Fort Bend County, and attempted to burn the body.  After torching Wilkerson’s remains, Moralez drove to a strip mall where he dumped Wilkerson’s shoes and backpack in a trash receptacle.  When law enforcement officers discovered Wilkerson’s partially burned body, they found his hands and feet bound.  Investigators also found a large amount of blood on the patio of Moralez’s home, and a large, bloody wooded rod nearby.  The youths had been acquaintances at school for over five years, and at the time of the murder were classmates at the Pace Institute, an alternative education school.  Wilkerson had offered Moralez a ride home from Pace, as school sources say he often did.  The only account of a motive for the murder is from Moralez, who contends that Wilkerson “made a pass” at the older teen, which sparked the fight leading to the murder.  ABC News 13 reports that Moralez was apprehended as he suspiciously hung around Wilkerson’s abandoned vehicle.  At the time of his arrest, Moralez refused to give his full name or address to police.  “The things that he said weren’t adding up,” said Pearland Police Officer Lt. Onesimo Lopez. “He gave the officers some false information and the decision was made at that time to take him into custody for failure to identify.”  Under interrogation, Moralez admitted the murder, and lead the authorities to the overgrown roadside where he attempted to burn Wilkerson’s body.  ABC News 13 also reports that Moralez attempted to grab a police officer’s pistol as he led the law enforcement officers into the area where the charred remains of his victim lay.  As of this writing, Moralez is being held in a Pearland jail on $30,000 bond for the weapon offense.  There has not yet been any bond placed on Moralez for the murder charge.  While hate crimes charges have not been made in the case, which is still under investigation, the sexually charged allegations of the suspect, and his well-known homophobic attitude toward gay people make anti-gay hatred a possible motive for the homicide.  Texas has a hate crime statute on the books including sexual orientation as a protected class, but police have been resistant to invoking the law, and conservative district attorneys have avoided using the hate crimes act in their prosecutions.  A bill is pending in the Texas Legislature to mandate the use of the hate crimes law in cases such as this one, where homophobia is a possible motive.  Wilkerson’s family has expressed thanks to searchers and law enforcement for the swift way the search was carried out.  Pearland Independent School District released this statement to the press:  “Pearland Independent School District has learned that a missing student has been found dead.  PACE Center student Joshua Wilkerson disappeared after school on Tuesday, Nov. 16. The Pearland Police Department and Texas Equusearch volunteers launched a search in Pearland after Wilkerson’s parents reported his disappearance. The search ended when investigators discovered a body overnight believed to be Wilkerson. PACE Center is providing counselors to speak with students and staff today and as long as needed. Pearland ISD offers its deepest sympathy to Wilkerson’s family.  ‘We will all miss Joshua. He was a polite, dedicated student. At school, he worked hard to accomplish his tasks, and each day he left with the same resolve to conquer any challenge that lay ahead,’ Julia Hall, PACE Center principal, said.” KHOU News 11 reports that members of Wilkerson’s family contend that Joshua was not gay.  Officials now suspect that Moralez may have not acted alone, since someone put up a bogus Facebook page claiming to be Wilkerson after the time Moralez was taken into custody.

November 20, 2010 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Mistaken as LGBT, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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