Denton, Texas – For the second time in a history of delays and postponements, Richard Hernandez’s alleged murderer was ruled “incompetent to stand trial” on November 18 by a Denton County judge. Seth Winder, 31, was ruled unable to assist in his own defense by District Judge Bruce McFarling after an examination finding him either unmedicated for his diagnosed mental impairment, or insufficiently dosed, according to the Crime Blog of the Dallas Morning News. Winder exhibited nearly catatonic behavior during the third day of the trial–evidencing that he had received none of his prescribed drugs for his schizophrenia, or that he had been spitting out and hiding his nighttime dosages, perhaps for weeks before the trial began. No explanation was given for how Winder could have been considered fit for trial on November 16, but zombie-like two days later. Neither was there an explanation of how jailers and med staff at the Denton County Jail could have so woefully neglected to make sure their smart-though-impaired inmate took his meds as directed and actually swallowed them.
Instead of completing the trial process for the gruesome murder and dismemberment of the openly gay Dallasite, Winder was sent to the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon for treatment. The Dallas Observer speculates that Winder may not ever face trial again for the Silence-0f-the-Lambs-style butchery of 38-year-old Hernandez, whose body was never found–save for his internal organs left in the bathtub of his Far North Dallas apartment in September 2008. This marks a second instance that Winder was found unfit to stand trial because of mental issues, the first being in May 2009. Observer reporter Brantley Hargrove found legal opinion divided on whether the Colony resident will have another day in court. Winder’s Defense Attorney, Derek Adame, says he seriously doubts another trial will take place. Denton County Assistant District Attorney Cary Piel, however, believes Winder will face judge and jury again, probably in April 2012.
Winder stands accused of murdering Hernandez in the gay man’s apartment, though the reasons for their relationship remain murky. Both the Morning News and the Observer repeated the unproven allegation that the victim and his supposed killer were gay lovers. Hernandez’s best friend, Rudy Araiza, has staunchly denied the possibility that Winder and Hernandez were ever “lovers,” and makes that point again in a blog response to the Dallas Morning News allegation. “Richard and Seth were ‘Never’ boyfriends!” Araiza said. “I’m not sure why this newspaper is making that statement, I knew Richard for 22 years, I would know!” It may be another instance in which a grisly anti-gay hate crime is toned down for public consumption by partially blaming the victim for his own demise. Media around the country have a notorious record for succumbing to this sensationalist temptation. Investigators said they found pornographic pictures of Winder on the cell phone he lifted from the Hernandez apartment, though no proof has been offered of who took the images, or what they actually depict.
Although the murder weapon was never found, police did retrieve a sword stained with Hernandez’s blood in the tent where Winder was living. Detectives say that Winder used the sword to cut up the gay man’s body. The dismembered parts of the victim were probably disposed of in a nearby dumpster, and then buried under tons of garbage in a landfill, making the body impossible to locate. Winder’s use of Hernandez’s credit cards led police to arrest him. Witnesses placed Winder in Hernandez’s apartment complex at or near the time of the gay man’s disappearance. Forensics found that the blood stains on Winder’s clothing and shoes were a genetic match to the victim.
So, Seth Winder, either crazy like a fox, or a neglected patient (or both), has avoided the jury again. Meanwhile, Richard Hernandez, who in death cannot answer the innuendo against his character, receives no justice. The eerie quiet throughout North Texas surrounding this latest trial development in one of the most heinous crime cases in Dallas history seems to confirm that many have an investment in hushing the whole thing up. Which would not be the first time such a thing has happened in Texas when it comes to violence against the LGBTQ community.
Toledo, Ohio – An ordained gay Baptist minister has called upon churches to change their anti-gay attitudes and language. Dallas Baptist preacher and theologian, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, speaking to a packed house at the University of Toledo last month, said that the notion Christianity and the Bible are considered irreconcilably anti-gay by many in contemporary churches is simply wrong. Citing Dr. Peter Gomes, the late chaplain of Harvard, Sprinkle said that the biblical teachings on hospitality to those who have been deliberately excluded by society, “the poor, the discriminated against, people of color, women, homosexuals, and all persons beyond the conventional definition of Western civilization,” is far more significant than the few misinterpreted Bible texts used to condemn LGBTQ people. Sprinkle went on to note that Christianity arose in the cosmopolitan world of the Greeks and the Romans, who in the main were tolerant of same-gender-loving people for much of the classical age. When taken as a whole, the early churches exhibited very little concern about what we today call “homosexuality.” “Homosexuality,” Sprinkle said, “is not mentioned in the Top Ten [Commandments], and is not in the message of any of the Prophets.”
The Republic reports that Sprinkle was invited to speak at a rally sponsored by Equality Toledo in response to the so-called “billboard wars” over LGBTQ acceptance in the Toledo church community. A progressive United Methodist congregation put up a large billboard on a well-traveled street in April proclaiming that “Gays Are a Gift From God.” An evangelical mega church responded by buying up space on nine huge billboards around the city rebutting the Methodist claim with the slogan “Gays Are NOT a Gift From God.” Sprinkle, a professor at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, and Theologian in Residence at Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBTQ predominant congregation in the world located in Dallas, is a widely-sought speaker and teacher. His most recent book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), is an anthology of stories of people murdered for their sexual orientation and gender identity, most of whom were killed by people who claimed justification from the Bible and church teachings. He is the founder of the Unfinished Lives Project, and the web master of http://unfinishedlivesblog.com, a blog seeking to remember the victims of hate crimes violence in the United States.
For our homes to yours, a wish for a blessed Thanksgiving season from the Unfinished Lives Project Team!
Ventura County, California – The teen killer of a gay classmate has pleaded guilty second-degree murder. Brandon McInerney, 17, 14-years-old at the time he pulled the trigger, shot gay 15-year-old Larry King in the back of the head execution-style at E.O Green Middle School in Oxnard, California in February 2008 before the eyes of his first-period classmates. The facts of the case are undisputed. Rising behind his victim, McInerney pumped two rounds into the back of Larry King’s skull, fulfilling a threat he made to a girlfriend at school the day before. McInerney will receive a 21-year sentence for a crime that many say bears all the hallmarks of a pre-meditated, first-degree hate crime murder.
In September of this year, a mistrial was declared after two months of testimony, due to the inability of the jury to come to a decision about the guilt of young McInerney. Prosecutors had argued for first-degree murder, based on the established pre-meditation and the heinous nature of the crime. Under California law, a 14-year-old may be tried as an adult, and McInerney, who confessed to the murder seemed to fit the statute’s requirements. Prosecutors claimed that because of McInerney’s antipathy toward King’s sexual orientation and gender expression, and because of white supremacist loyalties the killer clearly embraced, the murder was a clear-cut case of anti-LGBT hate crime. Defense turned the tables on the prosecution, putting the dead victim on trial instead of their client. They resurrected the infamous “gay panic/trans panic” defense, drumming their contention into the jurors’ minds that King was the prime aggressor, pressing his flamboyant sexuality toward McInerney until he “snapped.” Enough of the jury bought the ploy that the jury hung. Had the first-degree charge been upheld, the defendant would have received 53 years for his crime.
The Advocate reports that formal sentencing will take place for McInerney on December 19. Twenty-one years in prison is a long time for McInerney to consider that every day he lives is another he stole from a gay classmate because of his discomfort with a person who was different. For the LGBTQ community, the specter of the “gay panic defense,” like a hungry ghost, lingers on, given new energy by this plea deal.
Dallas, Texas – Gay Republican consultant Taylor Garrett was decked with a hard blow to the left eye last week, according to various press reports. A cast member on the gay reality television show, LOGO’s “A-List Dallas,” Garrett is closely associated with high-profile human rights opponent, Ann Coulter. Returning to his car from a birthday party on the entertainment strip along Cedar Springs Road in Dallas, Garrett says he was shocked to find the words, “F-ck Coulter,” keyed into his car door. A large man appeared out of the shadows where he was squatting, and knocked Garrett to the ground, cutting his brow and bloodying him. He also fell on broken glass beside the car, scraping his body.
Garrett is convinced gay Democrats are behind the bias against him and other gay “conservative Republican Christians.” In an interview with the Daily Caller, he said, “I would’ve thought people would have been a little more tolerant considering that our community advocates for tolerance, but it has been nothing but mean spirited attacks, especially after the Ann Coulter scene,” referring to his well-publicized luncheon recently with Coulter. Using racist plantation language, Garrett said that gay Democrats want him to “stay on the plantation,” but he is having none of it. Shaken by the incident, he says another season for him on the popular LOGO series is in doubt.
An ambulance was called to the scene, but the paramedics did not elect to transport him to the hospital, since his injuries did not warrant it. Some members of the LGBTQ community and media have suggested that Garrett is using this incident and another in October when a rock was thrown through his window to gin up publicity for himself. Garrett denies the allegations. Dallas Police have not designated the assault as a hate crime at this point.
In an exclusive interview with Huffington Post, Garrett continued the theme of gay hypocrisy over politics. “This goes to show you,” he said, “that the gay community advocates for diversity and is against bullying, but in our own community we discriminate based upon if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or if you don’t necessarily fit within the mold of the political views of the gay community.”
Dallas, Texas – After three years of delays and postponements, the trial of the accused murderer of openly gay Richard Hernandez begins today. The Dallas Voice, doing great journalistic work on this difficult case, announced the story on November 10, quoting first assistant Denton County district attorney Jamie Beck on the trial delays, “Everybody wants a swifter and quicker justice, but you’ve got to do it right. Bottom line, we want justice, so if that means it takes a while, then so be it.”
The “Silence of the Lambs” style murder of 38-year-old Hernandez, an employee of Walmart, drew national press attention in September 2008 when the victim’s viscera but no body was discovered in an apartment in far North Dallas. When Hernandez, a conscientious employee, did not report for work, his friends prevailed on the apartment superintendent to open his residence, and what they found resembled a slaughterhouse. Copious amounts of blood spattered the walls. Hernandez’s body was never found, but tissue from it was left, dumped in the bathtub. Dallas Police acted quickly to track down the killer. True Crime reported that the DPD filed capital murder charges against Seth Winder, 29, a homeless man with a history of erratic behavior and mental illness, even though they did not have possession of a body in the case–only the third time in thirty years of police department history.
Winder was located because of credit card charges he made to Hernandez’s stolen cards after the murder date. Police apprehended Winder in a tent inThe Colony, where he was in possession of personal items of the victim and a bloody sword that may have been used in the dismemberment. The Dallas Voice reports the police conclusion that the killer disposed of the body in a trash dumpster which was emptied in a landfill, making Hernandez’s remains unrecoverable.
Winder’s competence to stand trial was hotly contested in the earlier days of the case. His father and stepmother told the press that their son was a schizophrenic who had once tried to strangle his own mother. Friends of Hernandez contended that Winder was just clever enough to play ill in order to avoid responsibility for the grisly murder. The whole stew was made nastier by the report of police investigators that they discovered a digital camera belonging to Hernandez with “pornographic images” of Winder. The victim’s friends and family vigorously denied the implication that Hernandez and Winder were in a sexual relationship. In the end, Winder was ruled incompetent to stand trial.
Hernandez’s mother will not be there today to see if justice will be done for her son. She died with the story unresolved, thanks in part to a strategy of delays put in place by Winder’s legal defense team, and to the untimely publication of a book on the murder authored by Winder’s own stepmother.
Now, after years of treatment, authorities say Seth Winder is able to face his day in court. Jury selection has begun, and barring other delays, three years of agonized waiting are about to conclude for Richard Hernandez’s friends and remaining family.
“When I was in the Military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”– Leonard Matlovich 1975
We must not forget at what price LGB service members can now wear the uniform openly. And, we dare not ignore the grave injustice to Transgender Americans who still cannot.
San Antonio, Texas – An out lesbian student from the University of Texas at San Antonio says that she was assaulted by two men calling her obscene, anti-LGBTQ epithets over Halloween weekend. Kristen Cooper told KENS 5 that the only thing the two men who attacked her knew about her prior to the assault was that she was a lesbian. “I just think it was a hate crime against me,” she sad, still shaken by the incident.
Cooper says she was waiting for a ride from a local Halloween Party when two men stopped their van, grabbed her, beat her while yelling slurs about her sexual orientation, and drove her some distance before they pushed her out and drove away. Cooper fought back against them, “full-fist,” probably putting up such resistance that her assailants decided it wasn’t worth the effort. She had no cell phone, so she walked a long distance before someone noticed her, stopped, and then called the police.
Cooper’s injuries were extensive: cuts, bruises, a contusion, a concussion, and whiplash. When asked how she was coping with the attack, Cooper said to KENS 5, “Just still in shock and I’m trying really hard not to cry, but nothing like this should happen to anybody.” The San Antonio Police are currently investigating the crime as an assault, with no word about whether they intend to classify the brutal beating as an anti-LGBTQ hate crime.