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.
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.
Dallas, Texas – The first-degree murder trial of Seth Winder, charged with the grisly dismemberment of openly gay Dallasite, Richard Hernandez, has been postponed for another four months, according to reports received from the Dallas Voice. Winder was finally to stand trial on January 24 for the September 2008 slaying of the gentle, well-liked Hernandez, a resident of North Dallas who worked as an Associate for Wal-mart. The Denton County District Attorney’s Office announced the delay of trial until May 23, in response to the petition of Winder’s defense attorney, Derek Adame. This postponement of the trial date puts the commencement of justice for Richard Hernandez to a full two-and-a-half years since the visceral organs of the victim were discovered in his apartment bathtub. The Voice notes that the May trial date itself is considerably in doubt at this point. The events following the arrest of Seth Winder for the murder of Hernandez are a case study in the muting of a Latino gay murder in the Southwest. The forensic details of the crime are gruesome in the extreme. Though the sensational aspects of a dismemberment seem to lend themselves to media and LGBTQ community attention, a strange pall has fallen over this story for years. Dallas-Fort Worth television and radio news are filled with regular stories of mayhem, yet this bloody, outrageous crime has received relatively little attention in local media, with the exception of coverage by the Dallas Voice. Controversy has dogged this story since its inception. Winder, arrested with blood-stained evidence in his possession, has been variously described as mentally disabled and homicidal, even by his own family. Winder’s father’s girlfriend, Karen Dilbeck, threw a spanner in the works by authoring and publishing a book-length account of the crime and a pastiche of her husband’s mental state at the time of the murder. Because of a spate of publicity that might have affected a trial, justice was postponed in the wake of the book’s publication. Psychological experts have pronounced on Winder’s capacity to understand right and wrong, and his ability to stand trial for the murder. Friends of Hernandez have repeatedly called on officials to bring the case to a speedy trial, contending that Winder knew what he was doing when he allegedly cut his victim to pieces. A&E’s The First 48 attempted to revive interest in the story, but failed. Today’s news of yet another postponement works to dampen the community awareness of the story further. Gay men who habituate the Oaklawn-Cedar Springs entertainment district where the gay community of Dallas congregates seem to have no recognition of the name of Richard Hernandez or the heinous murder that has been likened to Richard Harris’s “Hannibal the Cannibal” best-seller and major motion picture, The Silence of the Lambs. Why such little interest or knowledge of the crime exists in Dallas in 2011 is cause for major concern. This is the hallmark of a gay hate crime being covered over by community neglect and denial, especially when the victim is non-White and past the Twink stage. In the end, the LGBTQ community has the responsibility for keeping the memory of Richard Hernandez alive both so that justice may be finally rendered in this terrible case, and also for the sake of the Dallas LGBTQ community’s social identity. It is sadly no surprise that major media such as Belo Corporation’s newspaper and television station de-emphasize the plight of gay and lesbian Texans due to hate crimes. They have been doing so for generations. But the local queer community, with the happy exception of the Dallas Voice, has dropped the ball for a series of reasons community leaders would do well to understand and counteract, if the LGBTQ voices in Dallas and North Texas are ever to be taken seriously by a neglectful heterosexist majority in this city and county. Meanwhile, the justice Richard Hernandez’s friends seek is deferred. And justice deferred is justice denied.
Dallas, Texas – The Dallas Voice reports that the mother of murdered gay man, Richard Hernandez, will never see justice done for her son. Richard’s mother, Mary Garcia Hernandez, died this week, before the alleged hate murderer of her son was brought to trial. John Wright of the Voice posted the full letter of Rudy Araiza, close friend to the Hernandez family, informing the public of Mrs, Hernandez’s death on August 23. Hernandez, a 38-year-old gay man who worked as an Associate at Walmart, was gruesomely dismembered and eviscerated by his attacker in what has been described as a “Silence-of-the-Lambs” style slaying in September 2008, as reported by Unfinished Lives. Hernandez’s body has never been found, but his internal organs were discovered in his own bathtub when the apartment superintendent admitted police in an attempt to find him. Seth Lawton Winder, 29, was arrested and charged with theft and capital murder by the Dallas Police Department shortly after the horrific murder. In a widely publicized debate in the press and the blogosphere, Winder was said by family and friends to be unfit mentally to stand trial because of a host of mental problems. Others sought to blame Hernandez for his own murder, suggesting that Winder was tricking for money or drugs, and killed his john. No supporting evidence has been brought forward to substantiate what amounts to a permutation of the rather shabby “gay panic” defense. Friends and supporters of Hernandez deny an allegation that he was sexually involved with Winder, whom Hernandez had tried to help, according to neighbors and co-workers. Winder was adjudged fit to stand trial for the murder, but then a book, “Slipping Into Madness: The Seth Winder Story,” was published by Winder’s father’s girlfriend that would potentially prejudice the public prior to Winder’s day in court. The delays and stalling have seemed never ending for nearly two years. Rudy Araiza wrote the Voice, in part: “Well I’m witting this letter to just reach out to you and inform you that it’s a terrible thing when your son’s passing is still at a point where no justice has been made for going on two years. And in your own life (Richard’s mom) you are struggling with pain, sadness, emptiness and health problems that don’t make it any easier to live with, until one day you die. Only to never really understand or find the justice you wanted for your son, yourself, friends or family, and having so much on your plate. Mary Garcia Hernandez passed away Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 from health issues she was dealing with.” The Unfinished Lives Project Team thanks the Voice and Reporter John Wright for continuing coverage of this important story, and sends our sympathy to the Hernandez family in their mother’s death. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Justice too long deferred is justice denied.”