Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

3 Gay Oregon Men in Costume Attacked on Hallowe’en Night

Two of the costumes worn by gay bashing victims of Portland, Oregon hate crime attack on Hallowe'en night [KATU photo].

Two of the costumes worn by gay bashing victims of Portland, Oregon hate crime attack on Hallowe’en night [KATU photo].

Portland, Oregon – Three gay men dressed in female costumes were savagely attacked in Portland on Hallowe’en, according to KATU News 2, the ABC news affiliate.  The trio say that the assault was motivated by anti-gay bias, since it was proceeded by a flurry of homophobic epithets. Dustin Miller, Joey Malone, and Curtis Hughes, friends who were looking for Hallowe’en fun, took great care in their drag costumes for the evening, one portraying Snow White and another Anna Nicole Smith–but the fun turned violent when a gang of five men started hurling anti-gay slurs at them as they walked along the Portland waterfront.

The Advocate reports that the gay men were beaten, dragged by their hair, and threatened with a knife.  Malone, who lost a tooth in the attack, said one of the assailants slashed at his stomach and his head with a knife, intending to stab him.  “He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face,” Malone said.  In a defensive move, Malone kicked off the stiletto heels he was wearing, and used them to back the attackers off.

In their interview with KATU, the three men vividly recalled the chaos and fear they felt as their assailants pressed their assault:

“I was on the ground and they reached over and punched him in the face.”

“All I saw was blood all over his mouth.”

“I was in shock. I felt my tooth go into my tongue and I spit it out onto the ground.”

“All I remember is hearing somebody yell there was a knife.”

“He swung it at my stomach and then swung it back up at my face.”

Hughes, Malone, and Miller recount their harrowing assault.

Hughes, Malone, and Miller recount their harrowing assault.

A passing cyclist aided the victims, and the gang of attackers ran from the scene, leaving the trio scarred, bruised, and shaken, but thankful they were not injured more seriously from the sudden, savage assault.  Hundreds from the community have responded with messages of support and comfort to the victims, and have donated money to help with medical expenses.  In one overwhelming expression of generosity, a local dentist replaced Malone’s broken tooth with a temporary replacement, and pledged to complete the permanent dental replacement later.

Hughes, Malone, and Miller reported the attack as an anti-gay hate crime, but they are not optimistic about anyone being apprehended and charged in the case.  They understand that their costumes were provocative, and that some might not appreciate their taste, but they never imagined that irrational hatred could turn the evening so brutal.  All three gay men are clear, however, that nothing they did provoked the attack, and they are determined to remain strong and proud in their gender presentations and identities.  As Malone told EDGE Boston, they are not going to let this experience change who they are, “Not even for a second.”

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Oregon, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ryan Keith Skipper Would Be Thirty-two Today

Damien Skipper and his daughter Ryan at the grave site of Ryan Keith Skipper (photo courtesy of the family).

Damien Skipper and his daughter Ryan at the grave site of Ryan Keith Skipper (photo courtesy of the family).

Wahneta, Florida –  Had Ryan Keith Skipper not been murdered in one of the most heinous anti-gay hate crimes in the history of Florida, he would be celebrating his 32nd birthday today.  Losses like his change the world.  On March 14, 2007, two ne’er do wells, Joseph “Smiley” Beardon, and William “Bill-Bill” Brown slit his throat, stabbed him 20 times, dumped his body on a dark, rural road, stole and tried to fence his new car, and then unable to get any money for it, botched an attempt to burn up the vehicle on a boat ramp at Lake Pansy.  They said their motive was to rid the world of “another faggot.”

Ryan was deeply loved by his mom, Pat, stepdad, Lynn, older brother, Damien, and a whole host of friends.  He also left a brokenhearted lover and two distraught housemates who loved him like a brother.  Lies on the part of the killers, and compound falsehoods by the Sheriff of Polk County kept Ryan’s murder from reaching the world as it should have.  Other LGBTQ lives were lost because Ryan’s full story was suppressed by rumor, unsubstantiated allegations about his character, and crass, anti-gay politics.  His parents took up the cause of justice for their son, and have become two of the most effective advocates for LGBTQ equality and anti-bullying in America. Beardon and Brown were separately convicted, and are now serving life in prison.  Nothing takes the sting of loss away, but many good people have stepped into the breach to ensure that Ryan will never be forgotten, and that his death will not be in vain.  Lesbian Filmmakers Vicki Nantz and Mary Meeks produced and filmed a 72-minute documentary about Skipper’s murder entitled Accessory to Murder: Our Culture’s Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper, that premiered in January 2008.  In 2011, Ryan’s story was published in a book dedicated to keeping the memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Murder Victims alive and before the public, entitled Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications).  The Gay American Heroes Foundation has memorialized Ryan, as well, and seeks to include him in a national monument to the victims of LGBTQ Hate Crimes.

But by far the most wonderful remembrance of Ryan has been done by his older brother Damien and wife, who gave Ryan’s name to their baby girl.  Uncle Ryan now has a living memorial in the person of his thriving, laughing, vital niece, Ryan Skipper.  The story of Ryan Keith Skipper is, like the stories of so many other anti-gay murder victims throughout the nation, a story of life, not death.  Every time little niece Ryan runs and plays, or anyone retells the story of her Uncle Ryan, the intentions of his killers is foiled again. We remember Ryan today, not in sorrow, but in gratitude–and in dedication to the spread of justice and equality for all people, gay, transgender, bisexual, and straight alike.  Rest peacefully, Ryan.  We have not forgotten you!  For we who believe in Justice cannot rest. We who believe in Justice cannot rest until it comes!

April 28, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Remembrances, Slashing attacks, stabbings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Brutal Murder of As-Yet-Unidentified Gay Man in Carrollton, Texas Raises Troubling Questions

HomicideInvestigation_689x387_ohu4MCarrollton, Texas – The body of a savagely murdered 22-year-old gay man was found by his housemate in his home in this Dallas suburb on Friday.  Police, who are classifying the investigation as a murder case, are not releasing his identity.  The victim, known by his circle of friends, fellow church members, and work associates as “Shawn,” was found by Tony Adams who shared a home with him in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Adams discovered the body upon returning home from work. According to the Dallas Voice, the victim was a well-regarded actor in the Dallas arts community, along with Adams.

“Shawn’s” identity has been complicated because he was known by a stage name he had assumed in the theater, and enjoyed using the name as his own in real life. As of Monday, it is not clear whether “Shawn’s” family has been contacted about the homicide.

Both Adams and the victim attended the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas where Rev. Colleen Darraugh is the pastor.  Pastor Darraugh is quoted by the Dallas Voice as saying that blood covered much of the house. “Evidently it was a brutal beating,” she said, intimating that knives may have been used in the fatal attack. The MCC of Greater Dallas is collecting money to help Adams with the crime-scene cleanup, and with replacing clothing and furnishings that were destroyed in the crime. In an email sent to congregational members and friends, Pastor Darraugh wrote, in part:

“Tony Adams Schmidt is a friend and colleague who some of you know through his work on sound and lighting at Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas and others know through his acting, directing, sound and lighting work in community theatre.

“We regret to share with you that Tony’s housemate, Shawn – whom many of you also know – was brutally killed in their home. The police are actively investigating to apprehend the culprits and to find the motive for this extreme violence.

“We share in grief at the death of Shawn and pray for his family and all of his friends.

“We surround Tony with love and support, praying for him as he deals with his grief and the shock of finding such a horrific scene.”

The email goes on to detail how donations can be made online to the church’s Benevolence Fund.

The nature of the murder, whether it was related to the victim’s sexual orientation, and how the murder gained access to the home are open questions for the LGBTQ community of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs.  As the story unfolds, Unfinished Lives will continue to monitor police reports and the media to ensure this terrible crime does not disappear from the community’s sight.


December 4, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, MCC of Greater Dallas, Slashing attacks, stabbings, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bisexual Man Attacked with Samurai Sword

David Teague III believes anti-bisexual bias motivated the sword attack that left his wrist slashed, tendons cut, and nerves severed in his left arm.

Johnston, Rhode Island – A 24-year-old bisexual man suffered severed tendons and nerves in his left wrist after being slashed with a Japanese katana, a samurai sword. The victim says he believes the attack was motivated by hatred for his sexual orientation.

WJAR-TV News reports that David Teague III was injured during a fight that started outside a home in Johnston early Saturday morning. Though drinking had been involved, Teague says his assailant cut him because of animosity toward his bisexuality.  The attacker allegedly yelled a homophobic slur at Teague as he pressed his attack.  The victim believes that the assault was no accident, and was a hate crime. “The next day I sat there wondering if my sexuality had anything to do with it,” Teague said to News 10. “I just want justice. He used a derogatory word that has to do with being homosexual. I believe he used his anger towards homosexuals to commit this crime against me.”

Investigators agree that there was a homophobic slur used by Teague’s attacker, but they say the slur alone is not enough to warrant a hate crime investigation.  They pledge to pursue the anti-bisexual motive if they uncover more evidence supporting the claim. Boston.com says that a group of men outside the Johnston house were drinking that evening, when a quarrel broke out between Teague and his as-yet-unidentified assailant.  When the two men started fighting, some of the other drinkers got involved, and at some point the assailant, yelling the slur, picked up the sword and slashed Teague’s wrist.   WJAR-TV News took a statement from a woman on Monday who has disputed Teague’s account, blaming Teague for the fight. Johnston Police have charged her with obstruction of justice, believing that she tried to divert investigators’ attention away from her boyfriend, the prime suspect in the slashing attack. Police have also charged two men with disorderly conduct.

Teague is currently facing no charges in relation to the attack. “I just wish this wasn’t about sexuality. Even though there might be enough to substantiate a claim of hate crime, I still feel hated,” he said.

August 7, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Rhode Island, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Lesbian Mutilated in Nebraska Hate Crime Speaks Out To Doubters

Charlie Rogers, victim of alleged anti-LGBTQ hate crime, speaks out for the first time.

Lincoln, Nebraska – “I am not a pawn in a game, you know. I am a person.” Charlie Rogers, the victim of an alleged hate crime mutilation in the Nebraska capital city spoke out for the first time in an extended interview on KETV Omaha on Thursday.  Rogers, a 33-year-old small business owner who lives openly as a lesbian, said she decided to grant the interview in response to media reports that police were investigating if her report was a hoax.

The five-minute interview shows the passion and hurt Ms. Rogers feels as the victim of a horrific home invasion, allegedly by three masked men early on Sunday who stripped her, bound her with zip ties, carved anti-gay slurs into her flesh, and then attempted to set the house on fire.  Her harrowing experience did not end with a stay in the hospital and then in a safe house where she has been recovering since the attack.  Now Ms. Rogers has to deal with the suspicions unleashed by doubts about her report of what happened to her in the dead of night in her own home. “It feels like a kick in the stomach,” she told KETV, even though she understands that there will always be doubters. “Being a victim in situation like this or a survivor and then having your integrity questioned, I guess, it feels very victimizing again,” Rogers said. “It makes an already difficult situation more difficult because my world has been changed forever by these events.” Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood suggested to NBC  that they were investigating all aspects of the case, including whether Ms. Rogers made the whole thing up. The media seized on the suggestion of a hoax immediately, sensationalizing the story of this outrage into an inquest into the victim’s credibility.

Investigators found three spray-painted anti-gay epithets in Ms. Rogers’ home, including one that read, “We Found U Dyke!”  Coupled with the victim’s report that the attack was motivated by homophobia, and the slurs sliced into her skin, all these factors have led police to proceed as if this case was a hate crime based on sexual orientation.

But the hate crime investigation notwithstanding, Lincoln’s populace is reportedly plagued by doubts.  Speculation mounted in the days before Ms. Rogers’ interview–“what if…?”

Ms. Rogers’ attorney, Megan Mikolajczyk, told CNN that her client wanted to dispel as much of the doubt as she could.  Mikolajczyk said she wasn’t surprised that there were people who wondered if the attack really ever happened at all. She also said that Ms. Rogers was not answering any one person’s doubts in particular. “I don’t think it’s safe or necessary to point the finger at any one individual,” Mikolajczyk said. “I think it’s par for the course for any sort of high-profile incident for people to question what happened.”

Sadly, Ms. Rogers’ attorney is right: it is “par for the course” for doubts to be raised about the veracity, mental state, motives, and character of LGBTQ hate crimes victims whenever they are targeted by violent attacks.  Such suspicion may or may not aid investigators to arrive at the truth in cases like this one, but it surely re-victimizes the person wounded or killed in such attacks.  “We-doubt-you” stories in the press and on TV also rob many of these outrageous crimes of their news worthy power to draw badly needed national attention to the soaring increases in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.  Blame and besmirch the victims of hate crimes is one of the leading ways heterosexist communities control gay people, as dozens of stories on the Unfinished Lives Blog show. One has to wonder whether statements of police officers to the media about hoaxes are less about the search for forensic truth than the desperation of the status quo to stay intact when revelatory events begin to disturb the public.

Ms. Rogers, an avid LGBTQ advocate, community volunteer, and former University of Nebraska basketball star, deserves a great deal of credit for coming forward to set the record straight, and to quell as much of the doubt as she can. Time will tell who is right, but time is also of the essence as the trail of the alleged attackers grows increasingly cold. Many in Lincoln, hundreds of not thousands, do believe Charlie Rogers, and support her full recovery even as they remain watchful that police investigators carry out a thorough, speedy search for the truth in this case, and expeditiously bring these hate criminals to justice.

July 28, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Blame the victim, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Nebraska, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lesbian Mutilated in Nebraska Hate Crime Speaks Out To Doubters

Gay Hate Crime in Nebraska Capital Draws Ire From Hundreds

Hundreds rally to protest alleged anti-gay hate crime at the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln. [Journal Star photo]

Lincoln, Nebraska – A woman’s report of a horrendous anti-gay hate crime has galvanized the progressive community in the Nebraska capital city to demand a stop to the violence.  Social media spread the news of a break-in at the woman’s Lincoln home on Sunday, drawing hundreds to the steps of the capitol building for a vigil in a show of support for all victims of LGBTQ hate crimes.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the woman was seized early Sunday morning in her home by three men in masks who stripped her, bound her hand and foot with zip ties, and proceeded to slice her skin all over her body. The victim told police that her attackers cut homophobic slurs into her flesh before splashing gasoline on the floor and setting it aflame.  As they fled the scene, the victim managed to flip and roll outside where her screams caught the attention of neighbors. Her name has not yet been released, and police are not yet speculating on a motive for the crime.

Police informed reporters for KVNO News that the victim was treated at a local hospital and released. The Lincoln LGBTQ community, who believe she was singled out because of her sexual orientation, has rallied to the victim’s support.  One local source, frustrated at the foot-dragging of the police on naming  hate crime as a motive, claims that the message, “We found you, Dyke!” spray painted in the basement of the victim’s home.

At the “Vigil Against Violence” Sunday night at the State Capitol, leaders of the LGBTQ and straight-allied community, already empowered by the recent Star City Pride Festival and a vigorous debate on the “Fairness Amendment” that would ban discrimination in housing and employment against LGBTQ people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, came out to let their voices be heard in droves–over 300 by the start of the vigil, according to the Star Journal.  Tyler Richard, president of Outlinc, a group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Lincoln, called upon the community to support the investigation with calm and resolve.  “We are shocked and saddened by the report of an alleged hate crime involving a member of the LGBT community early Sunday morning,” Richard said. “Our hearts go out to the victim, her family and close friends. Many in our community are understandably experiencing a great deal of sadness, anger and confusion. We look to our entire community to pull together in this difficult time.”

No one has been arrested as of late Sunday night in connection with the crime.

July 23, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Nebraska, Outlinc, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hate Charges Dropped Against East Texan

Burke Burnett, victim of gay bashing in Reno, Texas, shown soon after the Halloween Party attack.

Paris, Texas – Hate crimes charges were dropped against an East Texas man in the notoriously savage bashing of a gay man in Reno, a community in Lamar County, last Halloween weekend.  The Paris News reports that Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, arrested  along with two other suspects on November 1 for attacking 26-year old gay man, Burke Burnett on the night of October 30, 2011, is now free with all charges dropped. Martin contended that he was not present at the Halloween Party where Burnett was slashed and stabbed with a broken beer bottle, beaten, and then thrown bodily into a lit burn barrel while his assailants yelled anti-gay slurs.  The Lamar County District Attorney, Gary Young, announced that all charges have been dropped against Martin.

KETR Radio reports that several witnesses came forward to corroborate Martin’s claim that he was not at the Reno party when Burnett was brutalized.  Burnett himself affirmed that Martin was not a party to the assault that nearly cost him his life, leaving him with over 30 stitches and second-degree burns.

Two other suspects, James Mitchell Laster III and Mickey Smith, were found guilty of carrying out the homophobic attack, and are now serving prison terms.

July 6, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Hate Charges Dropped Against East Texan

Gay Hate Crimes Victim Ryan Keith Skipper Lives On: A Special Comment

Ryan Keith Skipper (April 28, 1981 - March 14, 2007)

Wahneta, Florida – Today would have been Ryan Keith Skipper’s 31st birthday, had he not died at the hands of two reckless, homophobic men in Central Florida five years ago.  But Ryan lives on in the hearts and minds of his family, his friends, and countless supporters of human rights who commemorate his life and the lives of other hate crimes murder victims around the nation.

Ryan’s murderers are both sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.  William David “Bill-Bill” Brown Jr. and Joseph “Smiley” Bearden killed Ryan on the night of March 14, 2007 in cold blood, stole his car, and vainly attempted to fence it before desperately trying to burn it up in order to destroy evidence of the murder.  The Sheriff of Polk County, Grady Judd, capitalized on Ryan’s murder politically, and crassly blamed Ryan for his own death.  Sheriff Judd, as of this writing, still holds office, though every one of his innuendoes and allegations concerning Ryan have been categorically disproved.

In the five years since Ryan’s untimely death, his parents, Pat and Lynn Mulder, his brother Damien, and his host of friends have gotten on with their lives, dealing with their grief the best they can.  His family has become one of the foremost voices for justice for hate crimes victims in the nation.  A major documentary film, “Accessory to Murder: Our Culture’s Complicity in the Death of Ryan Skipper,” directed by Vicki Nantz, a former news director for Orlando’s WESH-TV, continues to open hearts and minds to the cause of human equality throughout Florida and beyond.  Damien, Ryan’s older brother, has married and moved away from Florida.  He and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Ryan, into the world this past year, so in an act of life in defiance of death, another Ryan Skipper lives and thrives in her uncle’s memory.

The Unfinished Lives Project was inspired by the life story of Ryan Skipper: his extraordinary capacity for love and friendship, his ability to make people feel appreciated and important, and his unconquerable spirit of life.  His story occupies a chapter in the recent book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011), entitled “Keeper of Hearts.”

Every time Ryan is remembered and his story is retold, the intentions of his killers and their accomplices in today’s culture and politics are thwarted.  Ryan is precious in our memory on his birthday.  Our fight for equality and justice continues because Ryan lives on in our hearts.

April 28, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Politics, Remembrances, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, Special Comments | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

East Texas Gay Basher Gets 10 Years for Savage Attack

Mickey Jo Smith, convicted of anti-gay hate crime in East Texas.

Paris, Texas – The second of three defendants in the Reno, Texas homophobic hate crime attack on a gay man received a 10 year sentence after pleading no contest to the charges against him. Mickey Jo Smith, 25, took his medicine for participating in the savage beating and burning of 28-year-old Burke Burnett that took place after an October 30, 2011 Halloween gathering gone seriously wrong.  Smith offered no defense Tuesday against charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, plus a hate crime enhancement, as reported in the Dallas Voice.

Burnett, who suffered multiple bruises, stab wounds, and cuts from a broken beer bottle, plus second degree burns from being bodily dumped in a blazing trash barrel, offered this statement on Wednesday to the Voice: “I am grateful and comforted to hear of the sentencing of Micky Joe Smith. So many people who have endured similar experiences of hate crimes have not been afforded the opportunity to see justice served. The gay community in North Texas is a safer place today.”

In February, James Mitchell Laster, 32, pled no contest, and was sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in the hate crime.  The third suspect in the attack, Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, who like the other defendants yelled homophobic slurs at his gay victim while prosecuting his assault, was scheduled to face trial on Wednesday, but according to court officials, his day in court has been postponed.

Texas prosecutors have been reluctant to invoke the state’s hate crimes law in cases involving gay or lesbian victims.  The fact that both men convicted in this brutal example of homophobia have been sentenced with a hate crimes enhancement is significant–perhaps indicating that the LGBTQ community’s protests have been heard by state and local officials.

April 19, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, Texas | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on East Texas Gay Basher Gets 10 Years for Savage Attack

Transgender Woman Savagely Murdered in Detroit

East Detroit kill site where trans woman Coko Williams was brutally murdered (Detroit Free Press photo)

Detroit, Michigan – A 35-year-old trans woman was found murdered outside a Parkhurst neighborhood home on Tuesday morning. Because of the reputation of the area, and the stigma associating transgender women with sex workers, the killing of Coko Williams is being lost in the struggle of a neighborhood to survive.  Ms. Williams was found with her throat slashed and shot to death around 6:25 a.m. Tuesday in an area of East Detroit habituated by male and female prostitutes–one that could be justifiably described as “gritty.”  WWJ, the local CBS affiliate, reports that details are still emerging at this hour, but witnesses told police that the killers sped from the crime scene in a gold-colored vehicle.  No suspects have been identified at this time.

News coverage, like that done by Fox News 2, has been slanted toward the determination of Parkhurst residents to eliminate prostitution, drug sales, and violence from their area. Ms. Williams’ murder simply serves Fox as an example of the problems residents face. The Examiner presents Ms. Williams as a “man dressed as a woman,” showing the victim’s self-identification as inconsequential in an otherwise sensational story.  Both news sources illustrate the massive difficulty transgender people face overcoming the biased stereotypes that demean trans people everywhere, and denigrate the characters of trans victims of violence, such as Ms. Williams.

Coko Williams was well-known and well-liked, according to the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Program. A friend of Ms. Williams who identified herself as Dada told TWAVP that she had known Ms. Williams for fifteen years. Though she was “a loner,” Ms. Dada said, “She was really a sweet, quiet girl. She was never shady or nasty. She wasn’t that type of girl at all. She was always respectful of herself and to other people. It’s sad for her to go out the way she did.”  Her friends told authorities that supported herself as a hair stylist.

Equality Michigan’s Director of Victim Services, Nursrat Ventimiglia, issued an extensive statement to the press, combatting the disinformation surrounding Ms. Williams’ hate crime murder, and calling upon the Detroit Police to apprehend her killers with all possible speed. “It has been widely reported,” Ventimiglia said, “that the area in which this crime occurred is known for sex work. To be clear, it is unknown at this time whether Ms. Williams was engaged in sex work at the time of her killing, however, it is clear that sex workers are often targets of severe violence. Further, transgender women are far too often victims of the most severe violence.”

Ventimiglia then detailed the crisis of transgender violence rocking Detroit and the nation: “Our most recent report through the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010, documented 27 anti gay, transgender and HIV positive murders, the second highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition, and transgender women made up 44% of the 27 reported murders in 2010 while representing only 11% of total survivors and victims. Among transgender murder victims, 42% of transgender women killed last year were engaged in sex work at the time of their murder. Equality Michigan and the NCAVP denounce violence against sex workers and seek to raise awareness of the violence faced by gay and transgender sex workers as well as transgender women.”

The investigation is ongoing.

April 5, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Michigan, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Michigan, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: