#Murder

ACLU And Company Want An Appeal For Gay Man Convicted To Death By A Homophobic Jury

Six civil rights organizations have gotten in the ring to fight for a death row inmate who was found guilty by a homophobic jury.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National LGBT Bar Association have filed an amici brief advising the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the appeal of Charles Rhines.

In June, we shared with you the story of Charles Rhines. He was arrested after being caught in a deadly burglary of a doughnut shop in Rapid City, South Dakota in 1992.

While Rhines was convicted in 1993 for the murder and sentenced to death, evidence later arose that the jury that convicted him was biased. This evidence is three official statements from jurors who served during Rhines’s case.

As the Miami Herald wrote:

“One juror was quoted as saying that putting a gay man in prison would be ‘sending him where he wants to go.’ Another quoted a fellow juror as saying Rhines ‘shouldn’t be able to spend his life with men in prison.’ A third reported that, ‘There was a lot of disgust’ in the jury room. ‘This is a farming community.’”

While Rhines’s crime is very serious, his conviction to death because of a homophobic jury, who opted for him to not go to prison, doesn’t sit well with some. That includes the six organizations who have joined together to fight for him.

“New evidence confirms that some of the jurors who voted to impose the death penalty on Mr. Rhines did so because they thought the alternative – a life sentence in a men’s prison – was something he would enjoy as a gay man,” they shared in the brief. “Three jurors have made statements indicating that anti-gay prejudices played a significant role in the jury’s decision-making.”

 “As Chief Justice Roberts has explained, the core premise of our criminal justice system is that ‘[o]ur law punishes people for what they do, not who they are.’ (Buck v. Davis) Bias based on a characteristic that cannot be changed, such as race or sexual orientation, goes against this foundational principle. Allowing bias to play any role in sentencing is especially alarming when the bias may have made the difference between life and death.”

 Now, Rhines and his defense team have filed an Application for certificate of Appealabilty with the before mentioned U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The application can be viewed here and its exhibits can be seen here.

Will the support of these six major LGBTQ rights organizations give Rhines the yes that he needs or will his execution be upheld? We’ll see in due time.

Murderer Of Florida Gay Man Arrested After Using The Victims Credit Card

Florida police are interrogating the murderer of a Jacksonville gay man after they found him using the victim’s credit card.

On July 19, 30-year-old hair stylist Jessie Sumlar IV was found dead in his Water’s Edge apartment in Northside Jacksonville. A maintenance worker discovered the body and a handgun while doing a welfare check of the apartment, and police say the murder probably happened two or three days prior to that, according to News4Jax.

On top of the murder, Sumlar’s wallet and car were also stolen. This led police towards looking for Sumlar’s dark blue/green 2006 Chevrolet Impala with a Florida license plate saying EWXM16. While police did eventually find it, they found it burned near King Street and McCoys Creek Boulevard.

Thankfully, Jacksonville police later obtained surveillance footage of Sumlar’s credit card being used. They then released photos and video, seen below, and tips from the public led to the arrest of Omar Lewis.

Lewis was arrested this past Wednesday and charged with auto theft, credit card theft, and fraudulent use of a stolen credit card.

According to FirstCoastNews, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement connected Lewis’s DNA to the murder scene and he’s now been charged with murder as well.

Again, police are currently interviewing Lewis to find out more details about the murder.

h/t: News4Jax, FirstCoastNews

Hate Crime Charges Added To Murder Of California Teen Blaze Bernstein

California Police say that the murder of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein is now a confirmed hate crime.

21-year-old Samuel Woodward is currently under investigation after being tied to the disappearance and death of former classmate Bernstein.

Bernstein was home in California while on Winter break from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The two allegedly arranged to meet on the night of Bernstein’s disappearance. His body was then later found in a park and police tied Woodword to the incident.

Now, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says that homophobia and hate led to the murder, according to WSB-TV2.

A hate crime sentencing enhancement has been added to Woodward’s charge, but Rackauckas and Orange County police refuse to share the details of the evidence that led to this change.

According to ABC News, all Rackauckas was willing to share was that they looked through his cell phone, laptop, and social media. What they discovered was racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and homophobic.

"We have no room for this kind of hate in our society," Rackauckas told reporters in a statement.

"There's a lot there that just spews hatred towards a lot of different groups of people, basically every protected group," he added. "So it's hatred of many different groups of people. But the evidence of the motivation for this particular killing is we can show evidence that he killed him at least substantially because he was gay."

Rackauckas also would not address the earlier reported allegations that Woodword was connected to a neo-Nazi group. He instead asked anyone with any information showing such a link to report it to the authorities.

"There could be other charges filed as evidence develops," he said.

Samuel Woodward has pleaded not guilty to the murder and is currently being held on $5 million bail.

With these added hate crime charges, Woodward could be facing up to life in prison. His preliminary hearing is on August 22.

h/t: WSB-TV2, ABC News

Heather Barron Arrested, Charged With Torturing and Murdering Anthony Avalos

The mother of Anthony Avalos was arrested today and charged with murdering the 10-year-old boy who came out as gay weeks before his violent death.

Heather Barron, 28, appeared in court today, but her arraignment has been postponed to Monday. She is being charged with murder, child abuse resulting in death and torture, says a spokesman with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Earlier this week, Barron’s boyfriend Kareem Leiva, 32, was arrested and charged with murder, torture and assault on a child causing death, according the D.A.’s office. Leiva is being medically treated for a laceration to the neck, and will be arraigned when he is medically cleared.

If convicted on all charges, Barron faces 22 years to life in prison; Leiva faces 32 years to life.

Weeks after telling people around him he “liked boys,” the 10-year-old boy was found unresponsive in his home covered in cigarette burns with severe head trauma. He died June 21.

According to Department of Children and Family Services Director Bobby Cagle, Anthony showed signs of being severely beaten and malnourished.

On Tuesday, The L.A. County Board of Supervisors called for a comprehensive review of Anthony’s case history.

Clearly, law enforcement and child welfare services failed Anthony Avalos.

h/t: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-anthony-avalos-arrest-20180629-story.html

For more on this case: http://instinctmagazine.com/post/10-year-old-boy-anthony-avalos-came-out-weeks-brutal-torture-and-death

http://instinctmagazine.com/post/kareem-leiva-arrested-charged-murder-anthony-avalos

Kareem Leiva Arrested, Charged With Murder of Anthony Avalos

On Wednesday, an arrest was made in the brutal killing of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, a boy who had recently come out, saying he “liked boys” mere weeks before he was found covered in cigarette burns with severe head injuries. He died last Thursday.

32-year-old Kareem Leiva is in the custody of Southern California police, and he has been charged with murder. Leiva is reportedly a member of the violent gang MS-13, which has a branch in El Salvador that murders members if they are outed as gay.

Anthony’s uncle David Barron told The Los Angeles Times that Leiva was outspokenly homophobic, saying he was “uncomfortable just being around” gay men.

According to police, homophobia hasn’t yet been discussed as a motive in Avalos’ death.

Leiva is being held on a $2 million bail.

According to NBC News, Anthony told authorities in private interviews that he had been “locked up, beaten and not fed,” consistent information with the over 16 calls Child Protective Services had received about the boy and his siblings.

Still, Anthony remained in his mother’s care.

Following the arrest of Leiva, eight other children have been removed from the home.

"Nobody did anything. I don’t know why they thought that was OK for them to go back with their mother," said Karla Avalos, Anthony’s aunt. “What is wrong with the system?"

The boy was found unresponsive in his Lancaster home last week when his mother Heather Barron called police saying he had suffered a “fall.”

DCFS director Bobby Cagle told NBC News it was "premature" to describe Avalos's torture and death as a failure of the child welfare system. 

h/t: https://www.advocate.com/crime/2018/6/28/ms-13-gang-member-arrested-murder-10-year-old-gay-kid

h/t: https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/man-charged-killing-boy-10-who-reportedly-came-out-gay-n887221

10-Year-Old Boy Anthony Avalos Came Out Weeks Before Brutal Torture and Death

On June 20, 10-year-old Anthony Avalos was found unresponsive at his family’s home. He had suffered severe head injuries and cigarette burns covered his body. He died on the Thursday 21st.

On Sunday, The Los Angeles Times reported that at least 16 calls had been made to LA. County’s child abuse hotline and to local police before the boy’s death:

“Callers alleged that he or his six siblings had been denied food and water, beaten, sexually abused, dangled upside-down from a staircase, forced to crouch for hours, locked in small spaces with no access to the bathroom, and forced to eat from the trash.”

The L.A. Times reports just weeks before his death, Anthony came out as gay, saying he “liked boys.”

Anthony’s aunt Maria Barron repeatedly warned authorities about Anthony’s mother Heather Barron and her boyfriend Kareem Leiva. Leiva was convicted of domestic abuse in 2010.

Of course it’s impossible to not mention the parallels with the 2013 death of Gabriel Fernandez, the 8-year-old boy who was brutally tortured and killed by his mother and her boyfriend in Palmdale. Earlier this month, a judge sentenced Gabriel’s mother to life in prison; her boyfriend was sentenced to death.

Welfare officials had been in contact with Gabriel’s family, and saw signs of abuse. Four social workers are facing criminal charges in that case.

On Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors ordered authorities in charge of child protection to examine the case of Anthony Avalos.

“This was an innocent child who suffered unspeakable abuse,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger at the Board’s weekly meeting. She says the boy was murdered.

“You had teachers. You had family members. You had law enforcement come in contact,” Barger said. And yet Anthony is at the morgue. There is no question that we have to do better.”

h/t: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-anthony-avalos-response-20180626-story.html

Man Who Murdered 3 Philly Gay Men in the 1980s Was Found Dead In Prison

A man who killed gay men in Philadelphia during the 1980s has been found dead in prison.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 50-year-old Arnold Mulholland’s unresponsive body was found in his cell at the State Correctional Institution-Mahanoy in Frackville, Pennsylvania around 6:17 Friday morning.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections later announced that Mulholland was pronounced dead around 7am, but they would not disclose the cause of death.

In 1990, Mulholland pleaded guilty to killing three gay men, Alexander Munchweiler, Tracy Griffin, and David Johnson. Each man differed in age with ages ranging from 24 to 61. This led to Mulholland being sentenced to three consecutive life sentences.

During this time, five other gay men were murdered in Philadelphia, which caused a frenzy in the gay community. Around 250 people marched around Center City for a “Save Our Streets” rally.

Investigators say that Mulholland, who was 22 at the time, targeted gay men because he thought of them as “sick.” He chose to rob them and stab them in their apartments after being invited in for sex.

That said, Mulholland later told the Inquirer in a previously published article from 1993, “I feel for the people. I regret it.” But he admitted to not remembering the men’s names, faces, or the fact that they had families.

A Pittsburgh Man Is Accused Of Chopping His Gay Roommate's Head Off

A Pennsylvania man has been arrested after witnesses say he confessed to beheading his ex-boyfriend.

46-year-old Kevin Thompson was found dead and his disembodied corpse was found all over his home by police.

Thompson’s mother called Pittsburgh police to report that she hadn’t spoken to her son in two weeks. When she went to his house to check, she found stains in his kitchen and she became too afraid to investigate further.

When the police got to his home on Parkfield Street, they immediately discovered the stain Thompson’s mother reported. Police report that the kitchen floor and walls up to Thompson’s bedroom were covered in dried blood.

After further investigating, the police realized that a strong oder was coming from the backyard shed. There, police discovered flies surrounding a bag of dog food. Inside that was a garbage bag, and inside that second bag was blood and human remains.

The shed also contained plastic bags which held various limbs and a severed head. Afterwards, police also found a human torso in the house’s basement, which was wrapped in two trash bags.

The medical examiner not only confirmed that the victim was Thompson, but that he died of blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds to the chest. Officials believe the murder happened sometime between May 27 and May 29.

After the news got out about Thompson’s murder, 42-year-old John Dickinson was soon arrested and accused of being the killer.

Two witnesses told the police that he had confessed to being the murderer. They state that they were watching tv with Dickinson when news came on about Thompson’s murder. Allegedly, Dickinson then told them, “I did it.”

Another witness came forward to share that Dickinson had stayed with him around that time. The witness later found a notebook that inside said, “This is John Dickinson. I am responsible for the death of Kevin Thompson. I had no help whatsoever.”

He then took Dickinson to a tent where the suspect decided to stay for the weekend before driving over to the closest police department.

Things got even worse for Dickinson when it was discovered that he not only knew Thompson, but was his roommate.

Apparently, the two have known each other for decades and even dated in the 1990s. Dickinson, who was down on his luck, was offered a place to stay by Thompson and the two became roommates.

One friend told news sources, “John moving in with Kevin, would’ve known full-well what Kevin would be thinking. He would know that Kevin was thinking that John wanted to get back together with him…It’s incredibly disgusting. It’s a sick mind.”

Apparently, that was the case as the two witnesses who were watching tv with Dickinson reported his version of the murder.

 Allegedly, Thompson came onto Dickinson who then got upset. This led to an altercation that started in the upstairs bedroom and continued to the living room, kitchen, and basement.

Dickinson is now in police custody and is being charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse, and possibly more to come.

h/t: The Post Gazette, CBS’s KDKA

A 17-Year-Old Teenager Was Murdered And Police Suspect The Ex-Boyfriend

A bisexual high school athlete was murdered, and some think it was the ex-boyfriend who did it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 17-year-old Jeremy Sanchez of South El Monte High School was discovered dead of stab wounds on Wednesday (April 18).

Sanchez’s body was found along the San Gabriel River trail by a 16-year-old during a community search effort. While many commended the teenage boy for finding Sanchez’s missing body, soon that 16-year-old found himself handcuffed and arrested. Why? Because he’s now the prime suspect.

It seems that the 16-year-old, who’s identity is being withheld due to the fact that he’s a minor, was close to Sanchez. In fact, the Los Angeles Blade reports that the two were dating until Sanchez broke up with the suspect in order to take a female friend to prom.

“That’s something we’re following up on—if there was some kind of problem or some problem with their relationship or some kind of discrepancy… or argument,” says Lt. John Corina, a spokesperson for the L.A. County Sheriff’s  Department. “What made one kid want to kill the other kid since they were close friends?”

The authorities already have the firm belief that the suspect asked Sanchez to meet at the river on Tuesday night and stabbed him there. That said, they are still investigating the case in order to be certain because there was an attempt to cover-up the murder.

“This is somebody who obviously planned this, who tried to plan it well,” says Corina. “And who then tried to throw everybody off.”

Meanwhile, family and friends are morning the loss of Sanchez who was known for being kind and engaged in sports.

If you feel inclined to help Sanchez’s family pay for the funeral expenses, you can support them at this GoFundMe page.