Delphi, Indiana – A prime suspect in the murder of a gay Texan whose body was found near his burned out truck last weekend has been arrested, and awaits extradition back to Texas. Click2Houston.com reports that 22-year-old David James Brown Jr. of Conroe was apprehended and taken into custody on November 17 without resistance by authorities. The Dallas Voice adds that the arrest was made in a CVS Pharmacy parking lot. Brown has been charged with capital murder.
Marc Pourner, 28, was found dead from blunt force trauma to the head in a stand of trees in Montgomery County, Texas on Saturday night. Evidence suggests that Pourner was gagged and bound prior to being bludgeoned to death. His truck was completely burned out near where his body was found. Many, including his father, Mark Pourner, suspected that the crime was motivated by anti-gay bias, and now that an arrest has been made, Mr. Pourner is sticking to his earlier suggestion that his son’s death may indeed have been associated with Marc’s sexual orientation. The Dallas Voice adds that the proximity of young Pourner’s murder to the recent vote in Houston defeating the HERO Ordinance thanks to a heated, heterosexist and transphobic media campaign contributed credence to the anti-gay hate crime speculation on the case.
Mr. Pourner told Click2Houston, “I’m ecstatic there’s an arrest made. Now I want to be attending a trial and shortly after that I want to be attending an execution.” He went on to say that Brown and his son were only acquaintances, but that he would make no more statements about a motive in the case as long as the investigation was proceeding, other than his feeling that sexual orientation bias may have played a part in the killing. The family have announced their intention to begin a scholarship benefiting LGBT students in memory of Marc.
Friends, family, and some Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department deputies attended a Wednesday night vigil to share memories of Marc, and to underline their concern for his family and the LGBT community in the Houston metro area, which is currently on alert because of the crime.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, Brown was best friends with Marc Pourner’s boyfriend. Authorities are saying that it is still too early to make a hate crime determination.
Bloomington, IN – After a long silence, the Provost of Indiana University at Bloomington issued an official statement January 11 on the suspected hate killing of black gay professor, Dr. Don Belton, whose body was found stabbed multiple times in the kitchen of his home on December 27. Critics of the university administration suggested that stony silence about the circumstances of Dr. Belton’s murder was damaging his reputation in an already sensationalized media atmosphere. An ex-Marine, Michael J. Griffin, 25, has confessed to the crime as revenge for two sexual assaults allegedly perpetrated on him by the 53-year-old African American professor at a Christmas party. Friends and colleagues of Dr. Belton are working diligently to overthrow this suspicious “gay panic” motive on the grounds that Dr. Belton was never the sort of man to assault anyone. Griffin is being held without bail in the Monroe County jail awaiting trial. Dr. Belton’s murder is part of an emerging pattern of hate killings of black gay academics in the United States. Dr. Lindon Barrett, 46-year-old professor of English and African American Studies at the University of California – Irvine, was strangled to death in 2008. Dr. Barrett’s alleged killer, Marlon Martinez, 22, was to stand trial in early 2010 for the murder, but was found dead in his Los Angeles County jail cell on Christmas Day. The Long Beach Press Telegram reports that the cause of Martinez’s death is as yet undetermined. The statement of the provost of IUB is printed here in full:
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
As the campus begins the new semester, we must acknowledge a terrible loss. Some of you may just now be returning to campus after the holidays, and I am very sad to inform you that the Indiana University community lost a dear colleague during the semester break.
Don Belton, a faculty member in the English Department, was slain at his home in Bloomington on December 27. (An arrest has been made in the case.)
In his relatively brief time at IUB, Professor Belton earned the admiration and affection of his colleagues and students.
He was a gifted writer and a highly-valued member of the faculty of our distinguished Creative Writing Program, in the Department of English. He was very well liked and very well-respected. His death is a loss not just to his family and friends, and our academic community, but also to the extended world of arts and letters and to all who value the humanistic traditions. His absence will be profoundly felt.
The murder of Professor Belton has evoked strong emotions throughout the community and indeed the nation. I trust that all members of our community will exhibit tolerance, compassion, and respect in the wake of the loss of a valued
colleague. Let us also show respect for one another and for the many and varied ways in which we express our grief over such a tragedy.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Professor Belton will take place on Friday January 15, at 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Fee Lane in Bloomington.
Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Professor Belton’s family, friends, and colleagues.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Bloomington, IN – Hundreds of Bloomington residents braved the cold to attend a vigil honoring the memory of IUB Prof. Don Belton Friday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse. Friends, colleagues, students, and other citizens stood in silent tribute to the beloved teacher and author who was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his kitchen on December 27. Speakers denounced the account being circulated in the media that Belton was murdered as retaliation for sexual assault, saying that such a tactic only enflames homophobia and racism, besmirching the reputation of the good and decent man Belton actually was. A website, Justice for Don Belton, has been launched on the internet to refute the allegations of confessed murderer Michael Griffin, who told police after his arrest that he stabbed the professor to death at his Bloomington home with a military knife because Belton would not “apologize” for their sexual contact at a Christmas party. The Probable Cause Affidavit may be read in its entirety here. Griffin, who is being held without bail, has pled not guilty to the charge of felony murder. The creators of the website label Griffin’s confession as a version of the “gay panic defense” which is crassly deployed “to get charges reduced or to win over a jury when the victim was a gay person.” The post goes on to say, “This is a tactic that has had some success over the years but is increasingly being recognized for what it is: a defense that plays to societal bias and prejudice and is not a justifiable excuse for murder.” Supporters of Prof. Belton are calling on the Bloomington Police and the District Attorney “to reject any notion that Griffin’s claim of sexual assault weakens their case for murder.” Another error the site combats is the media notion that Prof. Belton knew ex-Marine Griffin briefly, in a sort of sexually opportunistic way. In fact, http://www.justicefordonbelton.com argues, Griffin was well-known by the IU English faculty, for whom he and his girlfriend cut grass and did other handyman jobs. Griffin spoke on more than one occasion with Prof. Belton’s colleagues about how much he and his girlfriend liked the gifted teacher and about their growing friendship. Griffin’s girlfriend made the call to police that led to her lover’s arrest for the murder. Robb Stone, writing for the website, concludes, “Reporting or providing sound bites that ‘an incident occurred’ between the men on Christmas Day is not responsible journalism. Don is not here to tell his story. The media needs to be aware that how they report on this story is critical to ensuring that justice is done. This is not the sensationalized story of a man who had a chance encounter with a random person. This is the story of a promising writer with many friends who was unfortunately betrayed by one of them.”
Bloomington, IN – Professor Don Belton, 53, a gifted writer and author in the Creative Writing MFA Program at Indiana University-Bloomington, was found murdered in his home on Sunday, December 27. His body had been stabbed repeatedly in the back and in the side. A suspect who confessed to the murder has been arrested and charged with murder: Michael Griffin, a 25 year old white Marine who had recently been deployed in Iraq. Griffin is being held without bail at the Monroe County Jail in Bloomington. Prof. Belton reportedly considered Griffin to be a friend. According to sources in the university community, Griffin is using a version of the “gay panic defense” to justify his actions. The suspect alleges that Prof. Belton sexually assaulted him twice on Christmas Day, and “refused to apologize for it,” according to ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. A faculty source says this is most unlikely. “We deplore the cowardice of such a claim in the face of the open-heartedness of such a man as Don,” the faculty colleague said. The Indiana University News Room issued this statement from Provost of the University, Dr. Karen Hanson: “Assistant Professor Don Belton was an important African-American writer specializing in fiction and nonfiction who began teaching at IU Bloomington in fall 2008,” said Provost Karen Hanson. “He was a generous and talented professor who had much potential. We were shocked and saddened by his death.” The case was cracked when investigators located a note on a 4″x6″ card beside Prof. Belton’s home computer addressed to a person named “Griffin” containing an e-mail address, a phone number, and directions to the Belton home. Police worked with officers in Batesville, IN, who informed the Bloomington PD that a girlfriend of Griffin’s had phoned in to say she believed her lover was involved in the murder. The arrest was made at Griffin’s home, where he lived with his 2-year-old son. Griffin confessed that he had gone to Belton’s home in his girlfriend’s pickup truck to confront him about the alleged sexual incidents. When Belton showed no remorse and offered no apology, Griffin said he stabbed Belton “until he quit moving.” He then stripped from his bloody clothes in the truck, apparently having taken a change of clothes with him. Griffin said he put the bloody clothes in a plastic trash bag, and threw them in a dumpster. The knife believed to be the murder weapon, a ten-inch blade issued by the military called a “Peace-keeper,” was found at Griffin’s residence. A personal journal was discovered at the crime scene with an entry by Prof. Belton indicating that he was grateful that “Michael” had come into his life. Bloomington police have not made a determination about whether any alleged sexual activity between the two men was consensual or not, but are dealing with the murder as a “crime of anger or passion.” Though decisively discredited as a courtroom tactic, the “gay panic defense” is often used by killers to explain or defend their lethal actions. Until confirmation from other sources can be determined, allegations of “sexual assault” need to be treated with suspicion, since the only source claiming such harassment is the suspect in question. The victim is unable to defend himself against the charge. Besmirching the character of a deceased gay person is routinely part of the so-called defense, often an attempt to tap into the cultural or religious prejudice against gay men in a community, thereby winning sympathy for the killer. The interjection of a child and a girlfriend into the news stories also tends to win sympathy for the suspect who may have been essentially heterosexual and then “wandered a bit.” Prof. Belton was a noted writer, the author of the acclaimed novel, Almost Midnight, and the editor of Speak My Name, an anthology of essays exploring the disparity between real and imagined representations of black male sexuality, according to his faculty web page at IUB. IU English Department chairman Jonathan Elmer said of his person and his work, “His great talents as a writer, his extraordinary generosity to his students, and his warmth of personality were gifts to us all. We will miss him terribly,” as reported in The Indiana Daily Student. A community vigil honoring Prof. Belton was held Friday night, January 1 at the Monroe County Courthouse.
An EDGE Boston article describes circumstances surrounding the deaths of two elderly gay men who shared a home in southwest Indianapolis. According to the article, “70-year-old Milton Lindgren and 73-year-old Eric Hendricks had been harassed prior to their deaths… with their phone and cable lines having been cut and a note containing an anti-gay epithet having been left on their door.”
The bodies were discovered by friends, Michael Brown and Kevin Tetrick, who had not heard from Lindgren or Hendricks for more than a week.
A WRTV Channel 6 report says police would not reveal how the two elderly men were killed or how long their bodies had been inside the home, only that their deaths came by “violent means.” An article in the IndyStar elaborates, saying the couple’s friends found an open window at the rear of the house and detected a strong smell coming from inside. Climbing through the window, one of the friends found Lindgren’s blood-covered body in one bedroom and Hendricks’ in another.
The WRTV report adds, “Police reports show that the men had their phone and cable lines cut twice in the past few months, and that anti-gay statements were posted on their front door. Investigators said that while they do believe the vandalism was related to Lindgren and Hendricks being gay, that they didn’t know if their killings were.”
Patrick Beard, another friend of the slain couple, said, “I firmly believe it was definitely a hate crime. Milt was 70 and his partner was 73 and to go into someone’s home and do something like that, it’s just too coincidental.” Beard’s son, Lee, added, “I’m not a genius, but if someone’s being harassed like that and fagot gets stamped on their door on a piece of paper, it’s not that hard to connect the dots two months later that these two people are brutally killed in their home.”
Hendricks, who was ill at the time he was attacked, had been confined to a wheelchair.
Additional information about this story, including commentary about Indiana’s hate crime laws, can be found at Advance Indiana.
Update: Police are now seeking Michael Brown, one of the friends who was at Hendricks’s and Lindgren’s murder site when police were originally called to investigate. “Mr. Brown was at the scene at the time officers were called to investigate what happened at the house,” said Indianapolis police Sgt. Paul Thompson. “He was one of the two individuals inside that stated the two individuals inside had not been seen or heard from in a while. Investigators did interview him initially, however, they have reason to interview him again.” Source: A report filed by WRTV Channel 6 in Indianapolis.