Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

“Worst Mother in the World” and Boyfriend Take Plea Deal For Torture Murder of 8 Year Old Son They Feared was “Gay”

Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre entered guilty plea to avoid death penalty.

Pearl Fernandez and Isauro Aguirre entered guilty plea to avoid death penalty.

Palmdale, California – The mother of an eight-year-old son she despised for being “gay,” and her live-in boyfriend have pled guilty to first degree murder and torture under special circumstances in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Pearl Fernandez and her sometime lover, Isauro Aguirre, took life in prison without hope of parole, and agreed to waive any appeal to their sentence in the horrific case of young Gabriel Fernandez. Paramedics were called to the couple’s apartment on May 22, 2013 because Gabriel had stopped breathing. He died two days later. According to court testimony by Gabriel’s older sibling Ezequiel, an eye witness to the repeated beatings and torture inflicted on his younger brother, Pearl Fernandez had beaten her child into unconsciousness, and then fearful of discovery, ordered her older child to fabricate a story about an accident in the Palmdale apartment so the adults could escape prosecution for his murder.  The paramedics found Gabriel naked, with cracked ribs, burns, and BB shot in his lung and in his groin area. As quoted in the Antelope Valley Press, Paramedic James Cermak said, “It was like sensory overload. There was burn marks, there was BB holes, bruises in various stages of healing, [it] looked like his ankles were broken. It was like every inch of this boy had been abused.” Cermak added, “We noticed that he had bruising all over his body, he had strangulation marks around his neck, and looked like his teeth had been knocked out.” When Cermak asked Pearl Fernandez about the situation “she became very defensive,” he said, and blamed the unconscious boy for fighting with his brother and being “a dirty boy.” According to NBC Los Angeles, the couple were arrested the day following Gabriel’s discovery for capital murder and torture. Though they both entered a plea of not guilty, a Grand Jury indicted them both in August for one of the most horrendous cases of child abuse and homophobia in Southern California history.

Testimony earlier this year established that Pearl Fernandez and her then-boyfriend Isauro Aguirre locked the boy in a dark closet for hours at a time, stuffed socks in his mouth to prevent him from crying out, repeatedly beat him, psychologically harmed him, and on at least one occasion forced him to eat cat feces and his own vomit as punishment for playing with dolls and acting “gay.” They whipped Gabriel with the metal end of a leather belt for a period of at least eight months, hit him with a bat, knocked his teeth out with a club, and tortured the boy with pepper spray. Though Gabriel was being overseen by the Department of Children and Family Services, at least four social workers who missed or ignored the signs of repeated abuse were dismissed from service in the public uproar over the case. After a total of no fewer than seven reports of suspected child abuse from sources including Gabriel’s teacher, the social workers did not investigate the allegations thoroughly enough to remove the boy from what amounted to a torture chamber of horrors. A blue-ribbon panel formed in the fallout from the case issued a scorching report mandating changes in the way at risk children are overseen in Los Angeles County. Gabriel’s maternal grandmother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county and the DCFS.

Gabriel Fernandez, tortured and murdered for being "gay."

Gabriel Fernandez, tortured and murdered for being “gay.”

While there is plenty of blame to go around in the horrific torture murder of the eight-year-old, the fact of the active savagery of a mother, deemed otherwise sane, against her own child for whatever reason prompted Gay Star News to dub Pearl Fernandez “The Worst Mother in the World.” According to the Antelope Valley Press, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Beck testified in court that on the night of Gabriel’s discovery, Pearl expressed little or no concern for her child. When prosecutors asked Deputy Beck if she showed concern for anything, he said, “Her cats.” The depth of hatred for LGBTQ people shown by the punishment rained down on Gabriel by Aguirre and Fernandez is hard to fathom. For allegedly playing with dolls, they humiliated him by forcing him to wear girls’ clothing, ridiculed him in front of his siblings, and tortured him beyond belief. Apparently, these two adults believed that blaming an eight-year-old child for being “gay” somehow mitigated and justified what they did to him. It also betokens that his own mother would rather have a dead son than a gay one.

Now, according to an organization posting on Facebook as “Gabriel’s Justice,” Fernandez and Aguirre’s guilty plea and the life-without-parole sentence finally brings some sense of closure to this outrageous case. For the advocates for Gabriel, there was never a doubt that the couple would be found guilty of this heinous crime, for putting Gabriel through such hell for so many months of his young life. The group expressed relief that years of appeals could now be avoided. Now, the fear to which these people subjected an innocent child would now be visited on them with a vengeance. “The two would sit on death row for over 30 years utilizing appeal after appeal with no closure for anyone,” the Gabriel’s Justice web master said in a post on Facebook. “Both will be placed in general population, there’s no safety house for them. This would not be true on Death Row.” With a sense of some vindication, the post is summed up with these words: “Justice has been served.” 

October 29, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Burning and branding, California, capital punishment, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, homophobic child abuse, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Perp Sentenced for Beating Disabled Brother and Threatening Castration to “Push the Gay Out of Him”

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for "sexual thoughts about men."

(L to R) Lawrence Featheroff, Jamie Smith, and Brent Disbennet abused a disabled man for having “sexual thoughts about men” (NBC4 image).

Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction.  On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.”  Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people.  According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.

Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle.  The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual.  Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.” 

Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet.  The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie.  On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men.  Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.

The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse.  The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home.  At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.

Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction.  Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault.  Their court dates are pending.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Disabled persons, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Ohio, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rush Limbaugh Demeans Matthew Shepard’s Hate Crime Murder

Attempts to demean Matthew Shepard and his murder are a Right Wing fetish.

Attempts to demean Matthew Shepard and his murder are a Right Wing fetish.

Palm Beach County, Florida  –  Conservative radio bombast Rush Limbaugh attempted to undercut the powerful anti-gay hate crime narrative of the murder of Matthew Shepard during a broadcast on Monday, February 24, from his top secret studio in Florida.  In the show, entitled “When did the ‘hate crime’ concept begin?”, Limbaugh launched a diatribe against Jason Collins’s decision to wear Number 98 on his basketball jersey in memory of Matthew Shepard who died because of anti-LGBT bias in 1998.  Collins, the first openly gay person to play on an NBA court this past Sunday for the Brooklyn Nets, came out back in April 2013 to both accolades and brickbats.

According to the broadcast transcript, Limbaugh attempted to win sympathy and outrage from his Dittohead audience for being the “original” target of hate crime language back in 1998. He had one major problem, however–the internationally embraced story of Matthew Shepard’s hate crime murder for being gay by Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney in October 1998.  So, Limbaugh proceeded to undermine the hate crime dimension of the Shepard murder that gripped the nation and the world and galvanized the human rights movement, eventually leading to the passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  in 2009.  Limbaugh said to his audience:

“[Jason Collins is] the first openly gay player to actually play in a professional sports game.  It happened last night, the Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers.  This is the Nets play-by-play announcer Ryan Ruocco, as Jason Collins — who, by the way, took the number 98 in solidarity with Matthew Shepard, who it’s now been proven didn’t happen, but was reputed to have been beaten up by a bunch of anti-gay bigots.”  In the transcript, Limbaugh provided readers with a hotlink to a book by right wing darling Stephen Jimenez purportedly “disproving” the anti-gay hate crime aspect of the Shepard case.

As Unfinished Lives reported last year at the publication of Jimenez’s book, these rather tired arguments are part of the continuing scheme to erode all anti-gay hate crimes narratives by attacking the archetypal Shepard story. Some of Jimenez’s own major sources have decried and disavowed his use of their names in his book of allegations, among them Henderson’s defense attorney who said that none of the “evidence” Jimenez advances was admissible in court when he was defending his client, and it is without merit now.  The Matthew Shepard Foundation, where Matt’s memory is making a difference by saving lives throughout the world, issued a strong rebuttal to this problematic book Limbaugh takes as gospel.  In the New York Daily News, the Shepard Foundation statement reads, in part:  “Attempts now to rewrite the story of this hate crime appear to be based on untrustworthy sources, factual errors, rumors and innuendo rather than the actual evidence gathered by law enforcement and presented in a court of law.”  

rush-limbaugh-260x300The extremist Right Wing, epitomized by Limbaugh, famously called “Comedian Rush Limbaugh” by Keith Olbermann on Countdownhas made a virtual cottage industry out of demeaning the lives and deaths of LGBT people for over 16 years.  Their agenda is running out of gas.  This latest attempt also fails to obscure the ugly truth that Matthew Shepard and over 14,000 other American queer folk have been murdered for their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity and expression since 1980.

The Shepard murder captured the world’s sympathy, outrage, and imagination as no other anti-gay hate crime murder story had done before.  As Gay Star News reports in its story on the Limbaugh allegations:  “Shepard, a 21 year old college student, died after being tortured in a hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson each received two consecutive life sentences for his murder. The prosecutor in the case alleged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay in order to gain Shepard’s trust so they could later rob him. McKinney originally pleaded the gay panic defense, arguing that he and Henderson were driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. After meeting Shepard at a bar, the pair took him to a remote area outside of Laramie. Once there they robbed him, beat him severely, and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney’s truck while Shepard pleaded for his life.”

As Dr. Stephen Sprinkle explains in his award-winning book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims (Resource Publications, 2011):  “The public outcry at [Matthew Shepard’s] cold-blooded killing meant the hate crime that cut his young life short became the holotype in the American psyche for all instances of oppression against people in the sexual minority.   It also sent a chill into the bones of the religio-political Right Wing.  Power to enact protection statutes for LGBT people coalesced around Matt’s death so swiftly that the Wingers feared anti-LGBT hate crime legislation might actually become law.   Their strategy was to kill the story, or failing that, change the narrative.   Cut the power of moral outrage out from under Matt’s murder, they reasoned, and they would blunt the mounting public sentiment for an end to anti-LGBT oppression.”   

None of Comedian Rush Limbaugh’s or Stephen Jimenez’s allegations concerning Matthew Shepard’s murder hold water.  It seems the extremist Right Wing is all out of ideas.

February 25, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Florida, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Jason Collins, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Matthew Shepard Foundation, National Basketball Association (NBA), New York, Rush Limbaugh, Social Justice Advocacy, Stephen Jimenez, Torture and Mutilation, Unfinished Lives Book, Unfinished Lives Project, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rush Limbaugh Demeans Matthew Shepard’s Hate Crime Murder

Homophobic Gang Member Sentenced in NYC Anti-Gay Torture Case

Nelson Falu, 20-year-old member of Latin King Goonies, sentenced for sexually torturing three victims.  Six more gang members remain to be sentenced.

Nelson Falu, 20-year-old member of Latin King Goonies, sentenced for sexually torturing three victims. Six more gang members remain to be sentenced.

New York City, New York – Nelson Falu, 20, was sentenced by the Bronx Supreme Court to seven years in prison for his role in a horrendous 2010 gay torture case that rocked the Big Apple for weeks.  Falu is the first of eight Latin King Goonies to face justice for his role in the sexual torture of three persons the gang believed to be gay.  According to Gay Star News, Prosecutor Theresa Gottlieb told the court on August 9 that Falu’s victims would rather have a plea bargain settle the issue rather than be forced to “relive” the horrors they endured at the hands of the Goonies in October 2010.

Falu and seven other Goonies tortured a 17-year-old gang recruit they assumed was gay, and then lured another 17-year-old and a 30-year-old man they assumed was having gay sex with the teens into their Bronx safe house that served as a makeshift dungeon, where they were sexually tortured, as well.  As reported by Unfinishedlivesblog.com, the Goonies fell upon their victims like wolves, sodomizing one of the 17-year-olds with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, solely because they suspected them of being gay.  The victims were berated with homophobic slurs and burned with cigarettes, beaten with chains, and repeatedly sodomized with a wooden bat for hours. The suspects were arrested and charged with with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery as bias motivated hate crimes.

LGBTQ Nation quoted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as saying at the time of the arrests of the Goonies, “Like many New Yorkers, I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes and saddened by the anti-gay bias that contributed to them. The heartless men who committed these crimes should know that their fellow New Yorkers will not tolerate their vicious acts, or the hatred that fuels them.”  

Falu, who was 18 at the time of his crimes, and two other gang members accepted plea deals in June.  It remains to be seen if the five others will accept plea bargains, or face trial in court.

August 18, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bronx, Gang violence, gay bashing, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latin King Goonies, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York, New York City, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Homophobic Gang Member Sentenced in NYC Anti-Gay Torture Case

Anti-Gay “Conversion Camp” Allegedly Tortures Effeminate Teenage Boy to Death

Raymond Buys, 15, near death from the ravages of an anti-gay conversion camp.

Raymond Buys, 15, near death from the ravages of an anti-gay conversion camp.

Johannesburg, South Africa – “Man Up or Die.”  That is the way an international human rights advocate characterizes the philosophy of an ex-gay conversion camp radically committed to “beating the gay” out of boys with “feminine traits.”  South African born activist, Melanie Nathan reports in her blog that 15-year-old Raymond Buys died as a consequence of torture and starvation allegedly imposed on him at a three-month “training course” at Echo Wild Game Rangers Camp, located an hour south of Johannesburg.  Esteemed British newspaper, The Telegraph, confirms that Buys is one of three young men whose deaths are being blamed on Alex de Koker, 49, Echo Wild’s director, and his accomplice, Michael Erasmus, 20.  Both of the accused are in custody awaiting trial under charges of “murder, child abuse and neglect, along with two cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm in relation to Mr Buys’ death.” Scott De Buitléir, a blogger for Elie, reports that de Koker has claimed to be innocent of the charges.

Young Mr. Buys, who suffered from a learning disability, was sent to Echo Wild to help him become more masculine by his mother, Wilna Buys, in January 2011.  His mother says she spoke to her son three times during the training camp, allowed to speak with him only on speakerphone so their conversation could be monitored.  De Koker claimed young Buys was “self-harming.”  When his mother asked him to explain what prompted his self-injuries, the youth denied that he was doing these things to himself, as she later told the court.  It remains unclear why Mrs. Buys did not act at that time to withdraw her child from the training course, an expensive proposition at $2,000 per month. Two months into the three-month-long course, which turned out to be a full blown ex-gay, reparative therapy boot camp, Mr. Buys lay dying in hospital.  He allegedly had been beaten until his arm was broken multiple times, electrocuted with a taser-like device, chained to his bed and not released to use a bathroom, starved until he was severely dehydrated and emaciated, forced to eat his own feces and laundry detergent, and hit until his skull was cracked and his brain was damaged.  Hospital officials told that he had a “zero chance” of survival. Within two weeks, The Telegraph reports, the teenager died.  “My child was a skeleton,” Mrs. Buys told the Vereeniging District Court. ”He had head injuries and torn ears, there were bruises on his face and arms and cigarette burns on his body.”

Two other young men, 25-year-old Erich Calitz and Nicolas Van Der Walt, 19, also died of brain injuries allegedly inflicted at the camp, according to the Huffington Post.  Alex de Koker, also the chief suspect in the deaths of Mr. Calitz and Mr. Van Der Walt, had reassured Mrs. Buys that he could help her boy become a man and find a good job in the wildlife service.  De Koker’s ties to a rightwing white supremacist homophobic group called the AWB/Iron Guards movement are being investigated.

The sexual orientation of the three young victims of these heinous anti-gay crimes has never been definitively established.  But, as Melanie Nathan points out, any young man who exhibits “feminine characteristics” in Afrikaans culture is considered to be a “moffie,” an epithet akin to “faggot.”  Ms. Nathan explains, “The idea of the [Echo Wild] camp is to apparently make men of teens and to ‘cure’  ‘feminine traits’ in male youths…another way of saying gay reparative therapy, instead in this instance that therapy involved ‘beating the gay out of the kid’– torture, and if torture didn’t effect the desired change, then certainly murder would; after all a dead teen is not a gay teen.” 

Mrs. Buys told The Telegraph, “I trusted Alex de Koker with the life of my child.”  Whether wittingly or unwittingly, she turned her son over to a virulently, homophobic group for a “cure.”  And it cost the boy his life.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, AWB/Iron Guards Movement, Beatings and battery, Burning and branding, Ex-gay conversion camp, gay teens, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, South Africa, Torture and Mutilation, Uncategorized, White supremacist groups | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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

Southwest Air Pilot Smears Gays on Radio, Suspended, Then Reinstated

Southwest Air Flight Attendant Ken Cummings Jr. (r), and his murderer, Terry Mark Mangum (l)

Houston, Texas – Most passengers are acquainted with a friendly pilot’s voice on the inboard com link, welcoming them aboard a flight.  A Southwest Air pilot, however, launched into a homophobic tirade on a stuck-open mic about gay employees and others in a rant that cost him a suspension, according to EDGE reports. In a March incident only now coming to light thanks to news reports by KRPC-TV, the pilot indulged himself in a series of epithets and slurs against gay people, older employees, and obese employees for two-and-a-half minutes, calling them (in the publishable portion of his rant), “gays, grannies, and grandes.”  Thinking he was only speaking to his co-worker, the pilot did not realize his microphone was on until informed that it was open and broadcasting by air traffic controllers in the tower.  A spokesperson for the airline informed media that the offending pilot was reprimanded and suspended without pay for an unspecified time period.  After a period of LGBTQ sensitivity training, he has been reinstated and is flying the skies again. Corporate and professional amnesia about the effects of homophobic speech and behavior on Southwest Air employees contributed to this regrettable incident.  Kenneth L. Cummings Jr., a longtime Southwest Air Flight Attendant, was brutally murdered by a religious zealot in June 2007.  The grisly slaughter culminated in Cummings’s tortured body being set afire in a shallow stock tank near Poteat, Texas in what his murderer called a “burnt offering to God.”  Southwest Air employees by the score aided in the search for Cummings in an effort co-ordinated by EquuSearch, and uniformed flight attendants, pilots, and company officers attended his funeral to honor him.  But how soon people forget.  Now a pilot in the same organization can rave on about gay people with little or no regard for their humanity, get a slap on the hand, some retraining, and then be put right back on the line, flying LGBTQ people among others to destinations around the world.  Unfinished Lives Team hopes he has learned something from this experience, beyond the old bromide that anything is okay so long as you don’t get caught.  Reports suggest that this pilot had to apologize to air traffic controllers and Southwest employees for his indiscretion as a part of his punishment.  A representative of the Southwest Airlines Employees Union is filing a discrimination complaint with the federal government concerning this matter.  Until then, fly carefully.  You never know who might be at the controls.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Southwest Airlines, stabbings, Texas, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unfinished Lives” Centerpiece of Houston Gay Pride Month Events

Houston, Texas – Reviving the memories of LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims will be the focus of three Gay Pride Month events sponsored by two gay-predominant churches and a national transgender organization in the Houston metropolitan area during June.  Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, author of the ground-breaking book, Unfinished Lives, will present three programs on ways anti-gay hate violence must matter to everyone.  Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, the largest-membership MCC in the world, and Cathedral of Hope Houston, a United Church of Christ congregation planted by CoH Dallas, the world’s largest gay congregation, and the Transgender Foundation of America are the sponsors for this series. All events (June 3, 10, and 17) are open to the public free of charge and will be held on the campus of Resurrection MCC, 2025 West 1tth Street, Houston, Texas 77008, beginning each evening with a light meal at 6:30 p.m.  Copies of his book will be on hand for purchase and signing by the author.

Over 13,000 LGBTQ Americans have been brutally murdered due to unreasoning hatred since the 1980s. Dr. Sprinkle, a seminary professor at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, wrote Unfinished Lives as a response to this crisis of violence.  His book, the only such volume in the English language, is a collection of first-hand stories of fourteen representative Americans who died because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The questions it deals with are in the forefront of human rights advocacy: How could this decimation of neighbors, family, lovers, co-workers, and friends occur in the United States?  Why have the killings continued unabated since the enactment of the James Byrd Jr and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009?  How are the suicides of young LGBTQ people and the murders of transpeople of color connected and related?  What must be done to stop the madness, to create communities of hope and tolerance, and to erase the hatred and transform the culture of violence that permits these horrors?  In the midst of these woeful aspects of American society, how do we find hope and create meaningful change?

Rev. Harry Knox, Senior Pastor of Resurrection MCC, says of these three events: “We are thrilled that Steve will be presenting three programs at Resurrection MCC beginning this Friday, June 3, and continuing on June 10 and June 17. Steve will share lessons he has learned about the root causes of hate violence and what we can do to prevent it in the future. I really hope you will consider giving three evenings to learning the stories Steve has to share with us and what we can do to make Houston safer and saner for us and for our children.”  

For further information on Session 1: Stories of Those We’ve Lost, and the other two sessions, please see the Facebook Events Page here, and the announcement in OutSmart Magazine – June 2011.  Dr. Sprinkle will also be preaching during Pride Month at Cathedral of Hope Houston, 4606 Mangum Road 77092, on Sunday, June 12, and at Resurrection MCC on Sunday, June 19.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Asian Americans, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, Book Tour, Brite Divinity School, Bullying in schools, Cathedral of Hope, Cathedral of Hope Houston, drowning, gay bashing, gay men, Gay Pride Month, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hanging, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, Native Americans, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Queer, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Resurrection MCC Houston, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, suicide, Texas, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Unfinished Lives Book Signings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Centerpiece of Houston Gay Pride Month Events

“Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina


Stephen Sprinkle signs "Unfinished Lives" book at Barton College, Wilson, North Carolina (Keith Tew photograph)

Raleigh, North Carolina – The Unfinished Lives Book Tour is visiting cities, churches, and campuses throughout the Old North State, and buzz is growing on the book wherever it goes.  Dr. Sprinkle commenced at the home of the Reverends Phil Jones and Cathy Cralle-Jones in Cary on April 9, where a packed house heard the story of how Unfinished Lives came to be. “I survived an anti-gay hate crime threat myself in 2000,” Dr. Sprinkle told the gathering of well-wishers for the book.  “That near-brush with physical violence just because I was gay set me on the journey to learn as much as I could about other stories of hate crimes victims in the United States,” he said. Representatives of St. Paul’s Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Hillyer Memorial Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Cary, Hopewell United Methodist Church in Sampson County, and the Graduate School at North Carolina State University engaged Dr. Sprinkle in a lively Q & A on hate crimes in America.  On Sunday, April 10, Dr. Sprinkle preached for the 9 and 11 a.m. services at St. Jude’s Metropolitan Community Church in Wilmington, an LGBTQ-predominant congregation founded after the brutal 1990 disembowelment slaying of lesbian carpenter, Talana Quay Kreeger, “Talana with the wild, blonde hair.”  No church in the city would allow Kreeger’s funeral because of the negativity toward her homosexuality, though she was the innocent victim of a horrendous hate crime.  Coastal Carolina queer folk vowed never to depend on a straight Christian congregation again to allow a funeral for one of their own. Local visionary activist, social worker Tab Ballis, introduced Dr. Lou Buttino, head of the UNC-Wilmington Film Studies Department, and announced that “The Park View Project” documenting the murder of Talana Kreeger, would be seen to completion by the eminent filmmaker. Reverend John A. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Jude’s, welcomed Dr. Sprinkle on behalf of the city of Wilmington. In the afternoon, representatives of St. Jude’s and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Wilmington, and Winterville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) joined Dr. Sprinkle for a book signing at Two Sisters Bookery in the historic Cape Fear Riverfront Cotton Exchange. On Monday, April 11, Dr. Sprinkle spoke at the NC State University GLBT Center “Lunch and Learn” event, and signed copies of his book. Center Director Justine Hollingshead and Emeritus Professor Bill Swallow hosted Dr. Sprinkle at State, where members of the Wolfpack Football Team were in attendance for the talk. This was Dr. Sprinkle’s second appearance at the NC State GLBT Center. In the afternoon, Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Phil Jones went to Wilson to deliver a lecture and sign books at Barton College.  Dr. Sprinkle was hosted by Dr. Joe Jones, and greeted by members of the Religion and Philosophy, Sociology, Social Work, and English faculties of the college. He spoke on “Honor and Educate: How the Community of the Dead Shapes LGBTQ Community.”  Students, faculty, and staff asked many probing and pertinent questions about the nature of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes and the linkage with religious intolerance. On Tuesday, April 12, Rev. Jones and Dr. Sprinkle traveled to Duke University Divinity School in Durham for a book signing sponsored by Cokesbury Bookstore. Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, renowned theological ethicist, called “America’s best theologian” by Time Magazine, attended, and got his copy of Unfinished Lives. “These stories need to be gotten out there,” Dr. Hauerwas said. He presented Dr. Sprinkle with a signed copy of his 2005 book, Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words. Later in the afternoon, the tour went to the LGBTQ Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where Dr. Sprinkle and Rev. Jones were greeted by Terry Phoenix, Center Director. A topic of discussion was the April 4 torture attack on gay UNC student Quinn Matney, who claimed he was branded by a super-hot metal instrument while being held down by his assailant. “Here is a taste of hell for you, you fucking faggot!”, the UNC student said his attacker shouted while torturing him, as reported to the Daily Tarheel. Before departing Chapel Hill, Dr. Sprinkle introduced his book to Dr. Rick Edens and Dr. Jill Edens, co-pastors at the 800-member United Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Sprinkle plans to contact RDU leaders on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program on Wednesday, before returning to Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.  The book tour is making friends and news everywhere it goes.  A four-session series on the book is planned for Houston during Pride Month, in June, and a six city national tour in the Fall.  Stay tuned for more on Unfinished Lives!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Barton College, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Book Tour, Bullying in schools, Burning and branding, Cokesbury Books, Covenant Christian Church, death threats, desecration of corpses, Duke Divinity School, Evisceration, First Christian Church Wilmington, funerals, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, It Gets Better Book, It Gets Better Project (IGBP), Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Matthew Shepard Act, NC State GLBT Center, NC State Graduate School, North Carolina, Park View Project, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Public Theology, Queer, Racism, rape, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, School and church shootings, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, St Jude's MCC, stabbings, stalking, Stanley Hauerwas, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Strangulation, suicide, Torture and Mutilation, transgender persons, transphobia, Two Sisters Bookery, U.S. Navy, UNC-Chapel Hill LGBTQ Center, UNC-W Film Studies Program, Unfinished Lives Book Signings, United Church of Chapel Hill, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on “Unfinished Lives” Book Tour Rolls Through North Carolina

NC Man “Turns Straight,” Murders Gay Roommate with Ax and Shotgun, Blames Mucinex

Michael Anderson: "Mucinex made me do it."

Hickory, NC – In one of the grisliest murders the local Catawba County Sheriff’s Department can recall, a teen roommate uses the gay panic defense to justify his alleged ax-and-shotgun murder of an older gay man. Michael Anderson, 19, of nearby King’s Mountain, is accused of murdering 38-year-old Stephen Starr at about 4:45 a.m. on Monday in the Hickory house they shared. The Hickory Daily Record reports that Anderson, claiming he “turned straight” during alleged sexual advances by Starr, shot him with a shotgun and pistol, carved words into his body and wrote some others with a pen, before lodging an ax in the victim’s stomach. “He shot his roommate and took an ax to him,” Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told the Daily Record. “It’s one of the nastiest crime scenes I’ve been to.” The words carved and written on Starr’s mutilated body were apparently so offensive that officials are not releasing what they were until the trial. Anderson announced the murder on his Facebook page between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., asking God to forgive him, and claiming that no one would be able to take him alive. In a bizarre twist The Box Turtle Bulletin says is reminiscent of the infamous “Twinkie Defense” used to deflect blame for the murder of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk by a straight rival on the board, Anderson claims that he took too many doses of Mucinex DM, an over-the-counter congestion medication.  In a 911 recording released to the Daily Record on Tuesday, Anderson says that the pills “drove me mad”: “I Od’d on Mucinex DM. Dextromethorphan makes me feel a little weird and I took too many.” Anderson told the telecommunicator that he shot his roommate three times with a shotgun and pistol, then mutilated the corpse with an ax so brutally that Starr would not be able to be identified: “You’re not going to know who it is,” Anderson says on the recording. When asked why he killed his roommate, Anderson then says that it was because Starr was gay, and he was heterosexual.  “I met [Starr] and went to his house and he took me in and I turned straight again. And he wanted to touch me and stuff and I wouldn’t let him, and he kept trying. And I waited until he went to sleep and then I shot him three times. And I mutilated him very badly and I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh God, please help me.” Starr had likened his relationship to Anderson as a parental one, according to his Facebook page.  On February 6, Starr posted that he had a “new son,” a person he was trying to make a better human being.  So, Anderson’s account of being picked up at a gay bar and molested seems not to square with Starr’s understanding of the relationship, neither does Anderson’s suggestion that the encounter with his older gay roommate was recent and brief.  The two men apparently lived together for several days. As the case continues to sort itself out, it is well to remember that homophobia is a crooked phenomenon that erupts into violence in a variety of seemingly-irrational ways.  It is also important to remember that Starr is unable to answer charges of sexual advances. News reports are carrying only allegations from the self-interested point of view of the alleged killer.  The Unfinished Lives Team sees enough in this story to indicate that a possible anti-gay hate crime was committed by a desperate young man who is ready to blame over-the-counter cold medications and the victim for his actions, but not himself.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Character assassination, gay bashing, gay men, gay panic defense, gay teens, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Internalized homophobia, Law and Order, Mucinex defense, North Carolina, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slurs and epithets, Torture and Mutilation | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: