Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Heartland Terrorist/Homophobe Threatens Gay Bar With Anthrax

Eric Reece Wiethorn, admitted sending hate letter purporting to be filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as "God's judgement" against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Eric Reece Wiethorn, 49, admitted sending a hate letter purportedly filled with deadly anthrax to a gay bar as “God’s judgement” against LGBTQ people. [Ames PD photo]

Ames, Iowa – Last Thursday, April 9, police officials announced the arrest of a man who sent a threatening letter that purported to be filled with anthrax to a local gay bar, according to the Des Moines Register. Police arrested 49-year-old Eric Reece Wiethorn of Ames, and charged him with first-degree harassment for sending the letter filled with white power to the Blazing Saddles Bar, forcing it to close. Police, firefighters and an emergency medical containment team in hazmat suits rushed to the scene. The white substance turned out to be harmless, non-toxic Gold Bond powder, but the threat sent a shock wave through the community, especially to LGBTQ Iowans.

This is not the first time the bar has been targeted by threats, but the owner, Robert Eikleberry, acknowledged that the anthrax bluff and accompanying note has been by far the most drastic. Eikleberry told the Register that Blazing Saddles, one of the oldest gay bars in operation in the state of Iowa, has been “the biggest target in town” for years. He described his reaction to the incident to EDGEBoston“I opened it up, white powder popped out, and it was an inflammatory letter. ‘Hate fags, gonna blow this up, gonna blow that up, gonna roast you all after pride’,” he said.

As Gay Star News reports the story, Eikleberry elaborated on terrorist-like threats Wiethorn aimed at him and the patrons of his bar. The message of the letter was, in part, “It’s time for all the faggots and dykes to die on Capital Pride night! Your secret enemies are going to blow up your destination for going to hell tonight, and we’re going to eat roast faggot the following morning. This is your punishment for sinning against God, and hopefully you’ll die from the anthrax on this letter!” Eikleberry went on to say that when the white powder came out at him from the envelope, he called the police immediately. “I opened the mail up thinking it was a thank you letter, it turned out to be a hate letter,” he said.

Police swiftly launched an investigation into the terror threat against the bar and the LGBTQ community, and identified Wiethorn as their top suspect. Under interrogation, Wiethorn admitted sending the letter. He is being held in the Polk County Jail on $2000 bond pending trial.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anthrax threat, Anti-LGBT hate crime, death threats, Gay Bars, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Iowa, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lesbian Sister Threatened With “Execution” For Going Home On Christmas

Gordon Bissonnette, 46, threatened to murder his lesbian sister if she went to their mother's home on Christmas.  He is now in custody.

Gordon Bissonnette, 46, threatened to murder his lesbian sister if she went to their mother’s home on Christmas. He is now in custody.

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.  

December 27, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Christmas, Connecticut, death threats, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, women | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lesbian Sister Threatened With “Execution” For Going Home On Christmas

Gay Affirming Ohio Church Burned to the Ground: A Hate Crime?

Ruins of South Bloomingville Christian Church. Was the arson a hate crime against a gay-friendly church?

South Bloomingville, Ohio – Arson investigators are keeping mum about the motive for the destruction of South Bloomingville’s LGBTQ-affirming church on August 17, but Pastor Scott Davis is not.  Davis, a clergyman affiliated with the Old Catholic Rite, a group noted for its acceptance of gay people, says that he has no doubt the open and affirming stance of the South Bloomingville Christian Church cause the congregation to be targeted by arsonists. “It’s a hate crime,” the Rev. Davis told Athens News. “In April we received death threats.” Davis is concerned that personnel in the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office, named as an investigating agency in the case, may have been involved in the arson, based on phone texts threatening the congregation earlier in the year. A county sheriff’s deputy, said Davis, “called me a faggot, said he would snipe me and throw me in a ditch,” and then ominously threatened to burn down the church building to put it out of business.  Davis contends that other county law enforcement officials have extremely negative attitudes toward a faith community they identify as “the gay church.”

As far as the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office is willing to go at this time is to issue a short statement remaining neutral on the claims of homophobia being made by Davis and members of the church.  The Fire Marshal’s Office, among other agencies investigating the total destruction of the church’s picturesque white frame building, issued this press release: “Investigators were able to eliminate all accidental causes and determined the fire was intentionally set. Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, specific details about how and where the fire was started will not be released at this time.” 

Church members and some local residents of the South Bloomingville area have rallied to the support of the congregation, affirming the welcoming policy of the church for gays and lesbians.  10 TV reports that a moving vigil was held on the charred floorboards of the building that once housed the congregation. Several members and friends of the church spoke to the press, owning the pro-inclusion stance of the pastor and his flock, reminding Ohioans that the Christian message is one of all-inclusive love of neighbor. A story developed by ABC 6 reports that a “Blue Ribbon Arson Award” of up to $5,000 is being offered to anyone giving information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the alleged hate arsonist.

It remains to be seen if mainstream media beyond local affiliates will pick up this story and give it the nationwide attention it should have.  Worship center burnings by bigots are a favorite tactic of hate groups seeking to intimidate blacks, Muslims, Jews, and now gay people.  Will the media report the news, or quash it?  This act of terror has, as of yet, not been reported outside of Ohio to any significant degree.  Meanwhile, the South Bloomingville Christian Church may be burned, but they are not broken.

August 25, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, death threats, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Ohio, Old Catholic Rite, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lives of Colorado Lesbian Couple Threatened in Hate Crime

Lesbian couple threatened with death

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!”

November 1, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Blame the victim, Colorado, FBI, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lives of Colorado Lesbian Couple Threatened in Hate Crime

Lesbian Couple’s Home Burned In Hate Crime

Vonore, Tennessee – The home of a Monroe County, Tennessee lesbian couple was burned to the ground and their garage defaced by anti-gay graffiti in what is believed to be a hate crime. On Saturday, September 4, the house was set ablaze, and the word “Queer” was spray painted on two sides of the family garage, which was left standing.  WATE, Channel 6, Knoxville reports that the couple, Carol and Laura Stutte, had been threatened in August by a neighbor who said he was going to burn their house down because they were lesbian.  He also threatened their lives, according to Stutte.  They reported the threat to the police, but there is no report as to the status of the complaint at this time.  The couple, who have been together 15 years, moved to Vonore from Oklahoma. The crime occurred while the Stutte’s were celebrating their fifth anniversary in Tennessee with friends in Nashville.  At present, the couple is in a safe house in Nashville while the investigation is going forward.  They have no plans to return to the property, and are staying away out of prudence and fear.  Other neighbors have defended the couple, saying that lesbians make good neighbors, and are welcome in Vonore. Members of the community, especially PFLAG of Maryville, and the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church are responding with funds and household goods, since the couple has lost everything.  As Becky Lucas, president of PFLAG Maryville said, “We are hopeful that the authorities will investigate it fully and that this couple will get justice. I think this happens every day to people in this community and many times they don’t speak up because they are afraid. Everybody deserves basic human rights.”  Lucas went on to say to reporters, “We want to send a message to this couple and other couples like them — you do have many allies in this area. Many people in the community are just as outraged as I am.” Care2.com reports that no determination has yet been made by local authorities about whether the incident will be classified an hate crime.  According to Care2, “Detective Travis Jones, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, has confirmed that the department is investigating the arson with the aid of the state Bomb and Arson Squad, that there are ‘people of interest’ in the case.”  The lesbians say that they would like to remain in the area, but they would never rebuild on the same site.

September 13, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, death threats, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Lesbian women, PFLAG, Slurs and epithets, Tennessee, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay College Student Beaten by Homophobes, Ignored by Oklahoma Police

Claremore, OK – A 24-year-old gay college student was beaten late last month by three men screaming anti-gay slurs as he took out the trash at his apartment complex.  Phillip Nelson, an out and open gay man, was jumped and thrashed in the quiet town of Claremore, approximately a half hour drive north of Tulsa.  Investigators have basically blown off the incident, leaving Nelson emotionally wounded in addition to his physical injuries (see photo at left). EDGE reports that Nelson is struggling to cope with the combination of brutal attack and police indifference to a hate crime against him.  “I keep calling them and leaving voice mails but I never hear anything back,” Nelson said during an EDGE interview. “No one ever returns my calls, which has me wondering if they’re kind of trying to let this thing die out and go away, or if they are going to do anything about it.” Media coverage outside the gay blogosphere has been sparce.  Besides the EDGE report, which according to Michael Lavers grew from a tip given by one of their readers, only one other story has appeared in the news media.  Oklahoma lawmakers aver that laws protecting LGBT people are not needed in their state, and in a notorious move by State Senator Steve Russell, legislation has been introduced to circumvent the James Bryd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October 2009.  The Oklahoma House of Representatives has not yet voted on the bill, which passed the State Senate last month.  Nelson’s case is a clear reason why protection statutes for LGBT Oklahomans is urgently needed.  Nelson’s three attackers who remain unapprehended by local police as of this writing, assaulted him while screaming “You are going to die!” and “Faggot!” leaving him with multiple bruises and cuts on his face and over his body.  Days later, his antagonists broke into Nelson’s apartment and scrawled “Fag” on the walls. Though Nelson reported the beating to Claremore police, no police report of the attack was filed until Nelson called in law enforcement for the break-in.  Then, in what may have been an attempt to cover their tracks, the police insisted that Nelson file separate reports on both crimes.  The whole ordeal has shaken Nelson, but as he told EDGE, he has had to face homophobia all his young life. “I’ve been called names all my life, even by my family members; and after a while I learned to get numb from it,” he said. “I just got numb from a lot of things. I’m happy with myself and that’s all that matters.” LGBT Oklahomans grow tough in the Sooner State.  They have to.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, death threats, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, home-invasion, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Oklahoma, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Slurs and epithets, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Threatening Postcards to Gay Profs Ignite Investigations

Images on hate mail sent to gay professor, John Koster photo for North County Times

San Marcos, CA – Authorities for the county, state, and federal governments launched a co-ordinated investigation last week into menacing postcards being sent to three gay Palomar College professors.  Since mid-2008, 20 postcards threatening murder have been sent to the trio, with 1o of these targeting Dr. Fergal O’Doherty, an open and out gay man who teaches English at the San Marcos campus.  O’Doherty said that FBI agents had contacted him on January 21, informing him that they are carrying out an investigation.  Sending threats through the U.S. Mail is an automatic federal offense.  O’Doherty told Morgan Cook, staff writer for the North County Times, that the cards sent to him have included images of sexual violence and death, the most disturbing of which showed skeletons engaged in sex acts with a repetitive caption reading “I’m glad I’m not dead” 10 times.  The tenth caption omitted the word “dead.”  One of the most recent cards Professor O’Doherty received shows a collage of pop culture images, a Nazi swastika, and a drawing of Elvis Presley sporting devil’s horns.  The caption on this postcard reads, “I want to go to Hell like Elvis.”  Authorities have not yet determined that these cards constitute a hate crime, but colleagues on the Palomar College campus are not waiting for such a determination.  They have founded a group to raise awareness of hate crimes and combat them before they are acted out, called the Palomar College Committee to Combat Hate.  Members of the group are committed to the human rights of LGBT people on the campus.  O’Doherty says that since he is one of the few openly homosexual professors at the 30,000 student community college, located 30 miles north of San Diego, his sexual orientation is probably the magnet for the hate mail.  From the variety of academic and pop culture icons incorporated into the cards, some as eminent as singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen and author Ernest Hemingway, but also including relatively obscure philosophers, O’Doherty speculates that the person creating them is intelligent, well-read, and dangerous.  “[The card-creator] mentions works by writers and philosophers that aren’t even assigned in undergrad classes,” he told the North County Times.  While this is not the first time O’Doherty and other gay faculty have been harassed for their sexual orientation, this is the first time officials have taken the threat seriously.  Even then, when the postcards started appearing, campus police refused to act, apparently believing that they were written by a harmless crank.  With over 13,000 documented violent crimes perpetrated against LGBT people throughout the nation in the decade prior to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009, and spiking numbers of anti-LGBT hate crimes in California where Proposition 8 and Marriage Equality are such hotly contested issues, the decision to launch an investigation is more than prudent on the part of law enforcement.  Prevention is possible only when the menace is taken seriously.  That is exactly what Professor O’Doherty knows to be true, as he shows his most recent death threat by mail to the press.

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, California, death threats, FBI, gay men, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Proposition 8 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Threatening Postcards to Gay Profs Ignite Investigations

   

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