Riverton, Wyoming – Santana Mendoza, the second teenage defendant in the September 2013 murder of a gay Native American was sentenced for manslaughter yesterday in the death of a gay Native American, and the victim’s mother is crying foul. Her son’s murder was a hate crime, Victoria Moss said, and the sentences the court handed down to the teens who killed him show the world that the life of a Native American gay man is worth less than if he were straight and white. County 10 reports that Ms. Moss declared that since this is National LGBTQ Pride Month, she would be honoring her son while gay people and allies celebrated Pride. “This Saturday,” she said, “I will be celebrating the pride I have for my gay son.”
David Ronald Moss Jr., 25, was bludgeoned to death by teenagers Santana Mendoza and John Potter on the Rails to Trails Pathway behind a Riverton trailer park on September 4, 2013. Moss’s companion, Aleeah Crispin, was beaten into brain damage by the teens during the same attack, leaving her unable to speak for weeks afterwards. Mendoza and Potter, 16 and 15 at the time of the brutal assault, were both tried as adults. Both initially pled not guilty to all charges. In April of this year, after a plea deal reducing the charge from second degree murder to manslaughter, Potter was sentenced, as reported by County 10. After the same plea deal was accepted by District Attorney Michael Bennett for Mendoza, his sentence was handed down by Ninth Circuit Judge Norman E. Young after a one-hour sentencing hearing at which Crispin herself testified. Mendoza’s sentence mirrors Potter’s sentence almost perfectly: 12 to 18 years for the murder of Moss, minus time served, and 8 to 10 years for the assault on Crispin, both sentences to run concurrently. The sentence also mandates that the youths share a restitution of $12,000 to be paid to the living victim and the families. Moss’s mother is convinced that her son’s sexual orientation and Native American heritage played into the judge’s decision to hand down a light sentence that would never have been tolerated by the white, straight community if the victim had been one of their own. Some say that the revelation of Moss’s sexual orientation came as a surprise to them.
Judge Young denies being influenced by the knowledge that Moss was gay. He told County 1o that he now believes neither of the youths “intended” to kill Moss, who succumbed to blunt force trauma to his head according to the Coroner’s report. What Judge Young does admit to considering was the age of the defendants. Both were born in 1997. He said that he had never sentenced anyone in his career as young as they.
The attack was swift, terrifying and brutal. Mendoza testified that he and Potter saw two friends eating fast food near the beginning of the pathway. The Daily Ranger reported that while Mendoza watched Moss and Crispin, Potter left to retrieve a ball bat and brass knuckles that they used in the attack on Moss and Crispin. The teens beat them in the face with the bat, and repeated kicked them. When they left, Mendoza testified, both victims were unconscious, and Moss was making a “snoring” sound. The next morning, two unresponsive bodies were found on the trail. Moss was dead. Crispin was beaten mute, and left with significant brain injuries.
Hate crime was never considered during the investigation. Instead, law enforcement and the District Attorney sought for other motives for the senseless crime.
Moss was an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and proud of it. His obituary portrayed a young man who was devoted to family, especially to his niece, Morning Star, and liked by a wide circle of family and friends.
The accusation of David Moss’s mother still hangs in the air as the two youths serve out their sentences: What is the comparative worth of the life of a gay Native American? Where is the justice in any of this senselessness?
Infamous Lesbian Murder Case Cracked in Texas: Alleged Shooter Arrested After Two-Year Investigation
Portland, Texas – Nearly two years after teenage lesbian lovers were abducted and shot on a steep grassy hillside in this South Texas coastal town, a 27-year-old suspect has finally been arrested, according to Portland, Texas law enforcement authorities. David Malcolm Strickland was arrested Friday and charged with the capital murder of Mollie Olgin, 19 at the time of the shooting, and for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon of Kristene Chapa, 18, whom he allegedly shot in the head at the same time. Chapa survived, though the damage to the left side of her brain left her unable to walk, sit, or stand. Only with years of therapy and surgery has Chapa been able to reacquire her balance and mobility. In addition to these charges, the shooter has been charged with aggravated sexual assault. Details are still emerging from the investigation, and further charges may be brought, according to authorities. Strickland’s wife, Laura Kimberly, 23, has also been detained by Portland Police, and faces charges of tampering with evidence.
“I hope that it gives [the victims, their families, and community members] some closure knowing that this person is taken off the street,” Portland Police Chief Gary Giles said to NBC News. “It is one day before the two-year anniversary. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we get him as soon as possible. A series of fortunate events has led us to this point and I’m just very happy that we could help in — at least at this point — in bringing him to justice.”
Strickland was apprehended in the Helotes suburb of San Antonio on Friday by Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, and Portland Police officers took Strickland’s wife into custody. Robert R. Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas told NBC News, “My sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families who had to endure this wicked act of violence. [Strickland] is a stone cold killer who thought he got away with murder, but will finally pay for his crime.”
The reconstructed murder event that took place in Portland remains chilling, even after two years. Chapa, now 20 years old, said she went with Olgin on Friday night, June 23, 2012 to Violet Andrews Park, to see where Olgin had been baptized. The suspect forced the teenagers at gun point down a steep incline where he bound them, sexually assaulted them, and shot them both, leaving them to die. A couple out bird watching the next morning discovered the victims. Olgin had died of her wounds, but Chapa, who had clawed her way out of the sharp, thorny brush, survived, and was rushed to a medical center for emergency surgery. Chapa returned to the scene of the crime to assist investigators. She recounted to a reporter how difficult it was for her to go back to the place where her lover died so cruelly. “I felt every cut, every thorn go through my hand,” she said of the brush she fought to get out of, pointing to the scars still plainly visible on her arms. “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get help.’”
Sergeant Roland Chavez of the Portland Police Department discussed the investigation with reporters. DNA evidence from finger prints around the crime scene initially belonged to over 250 suspects, Chavez said. Then the slow process of singling out the shooter had to go step-by-step. Investigators wanted to make sure they had the right man before making the arrest, else they feared Chapa would only be victimized again by a false ID. The shooter used a .45 caliber handgun on the teenagers, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Friday, June 23, 2012. The teenagers had no prior knowledge of their attacker, which complicated the case, making it even seem more brutal and bizarre. Neither did the suspect have a previous criminal record, providing officers another hurdle to overcome. Chavez speculated that the shooter may have fantasized about such a crime long before the actual event, and worked himself up to doing it over time. The birdwatching couple who discovered Olgin and Chapa stumbled across the gruesome scene at about 8:30 a.m. the next day.
Authorities are still at a loss to explain the motive for the crime at this point. They have consistently ruled out anti-lesbian hatred as a motive, but the suspicion that homophobia and certainly heterosexism may have played a part in targeting the couple just won’t go away. Hate crimes against women are particularly difficult to sort out, since homophobia is so often a weapon of sexism.
Chapa still struggles to open and close her left hand. The bullet destroyed the area of her brain controlling motion on her left side. Her wounds left her an invalid, much like a stroke victim. Hard work, support, and courage are paying off. Though she will never regain total mobility, Chapa told reporters that she knows she will almost get there, if she just keeps up the struggle. Worse for her is the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin. “Every day I think about her,” she said of Olgin. “I pray for her, just for her to watch over me.” Since the attack, Chapa has reached out to other victims of gun violence and paralysis, like the families devastated by the Newtown School shooting in Connecticut. “I opened up myself to them and just told them how my story is similar, I just put my feelings in there,” she said to NBC News, also saying that she hopes “to meet more victims who have been shot because we relate. I’m pretty sure we’ve been through a lot of the same things and have felt the same ways.”
She and her parents are still appealing to the public to help fund Chapa’s rehabilitation, care, and recovery. Her family has exhausted their resources, and though a good deal of money has been donated these past two years, it hasn’t been enough. Chapa says that she and her folks are “pretty much alone” in the effort to finance her health care. The funding site originally set up to assist with Chapa’s care has been discontinued without public explanation.
After a news conference arranged by the Portland Police Department to announce Strickland’s arrest, Chapa reflected on her feelings. Though she told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times she felt safer now that the suspect was in custody, the pain and loss are still there for her. “It will never take back the pain and hurt he did to our families. And it won’t bring Mollie back,” she said. “Right now for both our families this is very hard.”
San Patricio District Attorney Michael Welborn believes they have their man. “We feel we have a very strong case to put forth,” he said. “We fully believe that we are going to bring justice to these two young ladies and their families.”
Plainville, Connecticut – A homophobic man has been arrested for repeatedly threatening to kill his lesbian sister on Christmas Day. Gordon Bissonnette, 46, of Plainville, Connecticut was reported to local police in the early hours of Christmas by his mother, according to Gay Star News. Clelie Bissonnette said her son had sworn to kill her lesbian daughter Corinne if she came to the holiday gathering at her home. His brother, Brian, also went to police with eight voicemails from Gordon recorded since the beginning of December, in which the 46-year-old said he would “execute” is sister if he saw her on Christmas.
Among the messages threatening to murder his sister, Gordon Bissonnette allegedly said:
“If she [expletive deleted] with my child again, I will execute her myself,” he said, according to the police report.
“Corinne, if she goes against me, there will be bullets flying. She cannot talk to me. I wanna execute her. I will kill a gay.”
He allegedly added: “I’ll put a bullet in both [Corinne’s and her spouse’s] heads. If they turn my daughter gay, I’m gonna kill them both. I’m gonna blow their brains out.”
According to FoxCT.com, Bissonnette believed his 18-year-old daughter was being adversely influenced by his sister and her spouse.
In yet another message, according to EDGE On The Net, Bissonnette declares that he is at “war” with his sister over her homosexuality, and asks his brother to help “destroy” their sister Corinne’s Christmas.
Investigators reported to the press that Bissonnette admitted to the voicemails, but claimed he didn’t recall making them because of his heavy drinking. The police report also details how Bissonnette confessed to planning a smoke bomb attack on the home of his sister and her spouse during the holidays to cause them “to freak out.” Bissonnette is charged with second-degree intimidation, second-degree threatening and second-degree harassment. He is being held on $75,000 bond, pending trial in Bristol Superior Court on January 24.
Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence
Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources. On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports. Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high. When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation. Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers. “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said. Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises. Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him. “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.
The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate. Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt. Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his. “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.”
Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26. The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo. The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest. Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said. The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation. The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week. Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year. Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene. He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair. At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache. The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct. No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.
Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City. Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.
Richland Hills, Texas – A 71-year-old grandmother allegedly beat and choked a gay man with her cane, calling him a “faggot” and falsely accusing him of having AIDS. Wanda Derby of Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth, unleashed her homophobic attack on Wednesday night against a 25-year-old gay man her son moved in with last week, according to NBCDFW.com. Derby and her son had been “having issues” for several days, and her son decided to move in with the man and his family who also live in the neighborhood. Tensions had been mounting for weeks, according to the victim. Derby allegedly posted several times on Facebook that her son’s friend had AIDS and was going to die from it. The victim of the attack says he had to reassure his friends the accusation was not true, and that he was disease free.
The victim, who preferred to be unidentified in two news sources but is openly named in a third, says the Wednesday night attack was unprovoked. Derby, he said, struck him with her wooden cane, choked him with the crook of the cane, and then attacked other family members, including the victim’s mother, whom she allegedly slapped in the face. Derby repeatedly yelled homophobic slurs as she carried on the attack. “I was very offended,” the victim said to MSNBC. “You just don’t go around calling people names because. It’s just not normal.” he continued, “We finally got the cane and got it away from her and threw it on the ground. And then that’s when I ran around and got inside the house. And then we started trying to shut the door. And she was like, full force, coming.”
Detective Tye Bell of the Richland Hills Police told the Dallas Voice that the victim suffered multiple bruises on his torso and marks on his neck from the cane. He was treated by the Richland Hills Police on the scene. “[Derby’s] statements were very biased toward sexual preference and that gave us the probable cause to file that as a hate crime,” Bell said to Voice reporters. Derby was arrested Wednesday and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that may be enhanced due to a hate crimes charge. Without the hate crimes enhancement, Derby could serve a maximum of 20 years in prison, if found guilty. With the hate crimes enhancement, she could face a life sentence. After posting $11,500 bail, she was released on Thursday afternoon from the Richland Hills jail.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that just hours before the gay bashing, Derby wrote on her Facebook page: “My son Steven is no longer my son. He has sided with the idiots next door and I guess he [thinks] they will take care of him. He will never get another thing from me or his dad. We have washed our hands of him.” Derby was a longtime financial officer of the Mental Health Mental Retardation Association of Tarrant County, and worked for two years at the American Red Cross of Greater Dallas, according to her posts on Facebook.
The victim of Derby’s hate crime, who is an actor, says she deserves to be taught a lesson, and he hopes she receives the full penalty of the law. He went on to tell the Dallas Voice that he was proud of being gay. “She’s not going to make me feel bad for who I am,” he said. “I’m not changing my lifestyle because someone feels I am a disgrace.”
Parker, Colorado – A lesbian couple were tagged by a death threat on two consecutive days last week in Parker, a town southeast of Denver. On Friday, Aimee Whitchurch and Christel Conklin found a target symbol spray painted on their condo door and the phrase, “KILL THE GAYS,” tagged on their garage door in bright red paint for all the neighbors to see. The next morning, they opened their front door to find a noose laid on their door mat. Whitchurch said that when they discovered the noose, they knew their lives really were at risk.
Not the types to let such serious matters go, the couple responded by complaining to the Home Owners Association of their condo complex, whose president haphazardly splashed white paint over the red spray paint Saturday. His less-than-professional job barely covered the graffiti, and exacerbated the problem. Whitchurch and Conklin responded by taping a sign to the garage door that read, “Solve the problem; don’t paint over it.” The couple told Channel 9 News that they were sure their sexual orientation was the reason for the hateful graffiti attack and the noose. Whitchurch said the neighbors figured out they were not “roommates,” and took homophobic action against them. As Conklin said in the same interview, “Being lesbians is okay, until you start living together,” in Douglas County. “This is where we live. We should feel safe. I am afraid to walk outside my place now,” Whitchurch said. The couple have lived in the condo for nearly six months.
A feud had been brewing between the neighbors and the lesbian couple, according to the women. The Advocate reported that the HOA had complained that they were not picking up the feces after walking their dogs. Conklin answered the charges in detail to Channel 9: “It ridiculous. We have a Mastiff and a Great-Dane, two of the largest breed dogs, if we didn’t pick up after them this entire place would be covered. It’s completely invalid. That’s just common sense,” she said. The couple also own an English Bulldog puppy. Since the initial attack, the lesbians’ car has been keyed, and dog feces has been scattered on their property. Channel 9 reporters have repeatedly tried to contact the HOA officers for a statement, but no one has returned the calls.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office investigators have been on the case, but have surfaced no persons of interest. Detective Ron Hanovan said to Channel 9: “Right now, we don’t have any leads and no one is in custody.” Two offenses are involved in this attack, Hanovan went on to say, criminal mischief over $1,000, and anti-LGBT crime. Conklin and Whitchurch say they are taking this case to the FBI.
The HOA finally sent a reputable painter to cover the slipshod work the HOA president did on the couple’s garage door. In the meanwhile, Whitchurch and Conklin are not going anywhere. They still walk their adult dogs, and their little bulldog, Ellie May. On electric green and pink poster board, they have put up new signs the neighbors cannot miss. One of them declares, “We are not the gay couple! We are Aimee and Christal!”