Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Georgian Nearly Roasted Alive As He Slept

Carrollton, Georgia – A 43-year-old, disabled gay man was targeted  by arsonists as he slept in his bedroom. Christopher Staples, affectionately called “Brother” by acquaintances in this Appalachian foothills community, was lucky to escape with his life on Sunday, January 23, when his house was set ablaze in the predawn hours by charcoal fluid squirted into water pipe access holes in the home’s kitchen area.  The victim called the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department to report that about 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, while he was watching television and finishing a cigarette, someone threw a heavy rock with a note attached threatening his life for being gay. Staples and his family sounded the alarm for the Sheriff’s Department again at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, reporting that he had nearly burned alive, and that his small house was engulfed in flames. Staples, who has been open about his gay orientation for thirty years, told WSBTV 2 that the note read: “We know you’re gay. And God hates gays. You won’t be raping anybody in the county and God’s going to make sure that you burn in hell . . .My daddy will make sure you burn in hell.” Staples revealed further details on the note to the Georgia Voice. The note, he said, had algebra homework written on one side, and “On the other side in pencil, it called me an ‘AIDS infested faggot’ and ‘God hates gays’ and ‘God will make sure all gays burn in hell.” After Staples had gone to sleep, he was awakened by a repetitive “popping” noise which made him think someone was throwing rocks at the house again. When he pushed back the covers, his comforter was already melting, and the bed was wreathed in thick smoke. “The house was black. And all I could see was an orange glow behind my head,” Staples said in the WSB interview. Staples believes God “held his hand” led him to safety, according to the GA Voice. The Sheriff’s Department is heading the investigation, assisted by the FBI. Possible hate crimes angles are being considered, but the case for what most anywhere else would be automatically considered an anti-gay hate crime will prove difficult to make in Georgia, one of only five states that has no LGBTQ protections in its laws. The only way the crime could be prosecuted as a hate crime would be by invoking the federal Matthew Shepard Act, something unlikely in rural west Georgia. The Times-Georgian reports that a $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to arrests and convictions in the Staples case from the Georgia Arson Control Program. Initially, a Christian hate group was reported to have carried out the hit on the Carrollton native, but as the investigation proceeds, the identification of the perpetrators becomes less clear. Some local church groups have actually reached out to assist Staples, but whether out of a sense of Christian solidarity with the gay man, or in order to counter anti-Christian publicity is a matter of interpretation. On the whole, according to Staples’s family, gay outreach from around the country has outstripped the response of local straight groups and individuals. Now, two weeks after the attack, Staples is trying to put his life back together, and cope with the idea that someone tried to kill him in his sleep. “I know it happened, you look out there at my place and you see that,” Staples told the Times-Georgian. “But the severity of it hasn’t hit me. The fact that someone threw a rock through my window, told me they were going to kill me and then tried to do it is what doesn’t seem possible. I hear that whoever did this could get life in prison and I think, no way. But then my friends are like ‘Dude, someone tried to burn you alive.’ I mean, I still can’t grasp the thought of that. Why? I just don’t understand.”

February 5, 2011 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, death threats, FBI, gay men, Georgia, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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