Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Major Media Fail Over Murder of Houston Transwoman

Houston, TX – Myra Ical lived and died as a transwoman, but the Houston media have not given her the dignity of acknowledging her gender identity when reporting on her likely hate murder.  The Houston Chronicle reported Ical’s January 18 murder in the Montrose section using exclusively male pronouns, calling her male, and playing up the sensational aspects of the area where homeless people eek out a living.  As is often sadly the case in reportage that is lazy and salacious, the Chronicle used innuendo to suggest that Ical, whose body was found partially naked and covered with bruises and defensive injuries indicative of her fight with her attacker(s), was consorting with prostitutes and drug addicts.  Local and national LGBT rights organizations have pushed back against this media injustice by calling attention to Ms. Ical’s gender identity and expression, and demanding that reportage get this aspect of such a terrible story right.  According to The Advocate, Human Rights Campaign board member and Pride Houston president Meghan Stabler submitted a strongly worded letter on behalf of both organizations to media outlets covering Ms. Ical’s murder, urging reporters to “use fair, accurate and inclusive reporting” when reporting on LGBT issues.  The letter read, in part: “On Monday January 18 the brutal murder of Myra Ical occurred in Houston. She is a transgender woman but the media continue to use male pronouns along with colorful statements about being found in an area known for drugs and prostitution. This lazy and irresponsible journalism shows the amount of ignorance about transgender issues that is rampant among far too many reporters despite the existence of resources to help them report accurately.” GLAAD and the AP have clear guidelines on how LGBT-oriented stories should be reported, leaving big media like the Houston Chronicle without excuse.  Myra Ical, who was 51 when she died, will be remembered at a candlelight vigil near the site of her murder at the corner of Richmond Avenue and Garrott Street on Monday, January 25, from 6-6:30 pm.  The Facebook notice for the vigil calls upon media and the Houston Police Department “to communicate with the public in a way that respects the victim.”  Thanks to Daniel Williams for breaking this story in the DFW metroplex.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bludgeoning, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Media Issues, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slain Gay Professor’s Friends Denounce ‘Gay Panic Defense’ As Ploy

Prof. Don Belton, Michael Griffin

Bloomington, IN – Hundreds of Bloomington residents braved the cold to attend a vigil honoring the memory of IUB Prof. Don Belton Friday evening at the Monroe County Courthouse.  Friends, colleagues, students, and other citizens stood in silent tribute to the beloved teacher and author who was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his kitchen on December 27.  Speakers denounced the account being circulated in the media that Belton was murdered as retaliation for sexual assault, saying that such a tactic only enflames homophobia and racism, besmirching the reputation of the good and decent man Belton actually was.  A website, Justice for Don Belton, has been launched on the internet to refute the allegations of confessed murderer Michael Griffin, who told police after his arrest that he stabbed the professor to death at his Bloomington home with a military knife because Belton would not “apologize” for their sexual contact at a Christmas party.  The Probable Cause Affidavit may be read in its entirety here. Griffin, who is being held without bail, has pled not guilty to the charge of felony murder.  The creators of the website label Griffin’s confession as a version of the “gay panic defense” which is crassly deployed “to get charges reduced or to win over a jury when the victim was a gay person.”  The post goes on to say, “This is a tactic that has had some success over the years but is increasingly being recognized for what it is: a defense that plays to societal bias and prejudice and is not a justifiable excuse for murder.”  Supporters of Prof. Belton are calling on the Bloomington Police and the District Attorney “to reject any notion that Griffin’s claim of sexual assault weakens their case for murder.”  Another error the site combats is the media notion that Prof. Belton knew ex-Marine Griffin briefly, in a sort of sexually opportunistic way.  In fact, http://www.justicefordonbelton.com argues, Griffin was well-known by the IU English faculty, for whom he and his girlfriend cut grass and did other handyman jobs.  Griffin spoke on more than one occasion with Prof. Belton’s colleagues about how much he and his girlfriend liked the gifted teacher and about their growing friendship.  Griffin’s girlfriend made the call to police that led to her lover’s arrest for the murder.  Robb Stone, writing for the website, concludes, “Reporting or providing sound bites that ‘an incident occurred’ between the men on Christmas Day is not responsible journalism. Don is not here to tell his story. The media needs to be aware that how they report on this story is critical to ensuring that justice is done.  This is not the sensationalized story of a man who had a chance encounter with a random person. This is the story of a promising writer with many friends who was unfortunately betrayed by one of them.”

January 2, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, gay men, gay panic defense, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Indiana, Law and Order, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, stabbings, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Slain Gay Professor’s Friends Denounce ‘Gay Panic Defense’ As Ploy

Christmas Murder of Gay Man in Louisiana Still Unresolved

Houma, LA –  Early on Christmas morning, Robert LeCompte, 39, was found stabbed to death in a prominent gay and lesbian night club he managed.  His body was riddled with stab wounds, suggesting the possibility of a hate crime.  $4,700 was reported missing by the club’s owner, Randall Chesnut, with whom LeCompte lived.  Terrebone Parish law enforcement officers are working to develop clues in the case. When LeCompte did not come home as expected, Chesnut called the police, leading to their discovery of the gay man’s blood-soaked corpse lying in the middle of the dance floor of the Drama Club on Hollywood Road.  Chesnut spoke kind words about his employee to reporters from the Tri-Parish Times: “He had no enemies,” Chesnut said. “The boy was loved by everyone. He wasn’t but 5-foot, 2 (inches), and soaking wet he didn’t weigh but 120 pounds. I’ve probably just lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and the best employee, too.”  Initially, the missing money led the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office to communicate to the media that this was a robbery only.  But Chesnut, himself a former detective, is not persuaded.  “I would believe motivation would be definitely robbery, but when you start stabbing the body multiple times, that’s a crime of passion. I’m not ruling out the fact that it could be a hate crime. Whoever killed him was very angry, as far as the police are concerned.”   Major  Malcolm Wolfe, spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said that no strong leads exist in the case yet.  He indicated that sheriff’s officers were working night and day to crack the case.  According to Chesnut, the LeCompte family is unable to finance their relative’s funeral and burial by themselves, so members of the gay and lesbian community have stepped up to the challenge, and donations are coming in.  He told Tri-Parish Times reporter Brett Schweinburg, “The gay community, I’m so proud of them. They’ve stepped up, and they’re pissed. They’re not scared. He has lit a fire in this community,” said Chesnut. “Most of the people in this community, they fear the law or they fear this, but it’s taken the opposite effect. There’s a determination here.”  A vigil for LeCompte was held on Christmas Day at the Drama Club, with over 150 people attending.  Vigils and fund-raisers are planned in Houma, Baton Rouge,and New Orleans with a memorial at the Drama Club set for Saturday, January 2, 2010.  One of the saddest ironies of this possible anti-LGBT hate crime murder is that Christmas Day was his birthday.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Lesbian women, Louisiana, Remembrances, stabbings, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bad Hombres: Arrests in Possible Anti-LGBT Violence in West Texas

Brewster County, TX – Two men have been arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old man in Terlingua, Texas on Sunday, December 6 in what is unfolding into a possible anti-gay hate crime story. While the sexual orientation of the victim remains officially undisclosed, local sources allege that the teenager is gay.  Daniel Martinez, 46, has been charged with sexual assault and is being held on $35,000 bond. Kristopher Buchanan, 27, is being held on outstanding warrants from other counties. The suspects are expected to face additional charges.  Pink News summarizes reports from Texas saying that the victim ,whose name has not been released by law enforcement, was abducted outside a bar in Terlingua, a town on the Texas-Mexico Border, and driven in his own car to a remote area in southern Brewster County.  The Big Bend Gazette reports that the youth was sexually assaulted by the pair before his car was set afire.  He was forced into a private residence where his attackers sexually assaulted him again.  He managed to escape, running three miles across the desert to a highway where a Brewster County Sheriff’s Deputy spotted him and took him to a hospital for treatment.  Officials say that the victim is currently recovering in an undisclosed location.  Law enforcement has been tight-lipped about the crime, but both local and LGBT press have speculated that the assault was an anti-gay hate crime.  Some have gone so far as to equate the attack with the fatal pistol-whipping of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard.  When questioned about the investigation, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson told reporters that the case is being treated as a kidnapping, sexual assault and auto arson. “Everybody’s in jail,” said Dodson. “That’s the best part.”  A rally was held last night in support of the victim.

December 15, 2009 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, gay teens, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kidnapping and sexual assault, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Matthew Shepard, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, rape, Texas, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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