June 12, 2007
Matthew Shepard all over again?
Posted by: Chris
A reader of Gay News Watch submitted a story from an alternative newspaper in Bloomington, Ind., that we should all do our part to spread the word about. A young, slightly built man was brutally beaten to death on April 12 because, his suspected assailants claim, he made a pass at one of them.
The shocking murder of Aaron Hall, known by his friends as "Shorty," and the use of the so-called "gay panic" defense by those charged in his murder, have yet to attract media attention from bigger newspapers in Indiana, much less outside the state. It is incumbent on all of us to make sure it is investigated as a possible hate crime and, if confirmed, Americans see the violent result of homophobia.
Reporter Steven Higgs of the Bloomington Alternative lays out the facts:
The simple facts in Shorty Hall's murder shout major media. … The 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming is commonly invoked in comparison.
Thirty-five-year-old, 5-foot-4, 100-pound Aaron Hall was brutally beaten on April 12 for hours by two teens who have described the murder in chilling detail to police. Each says Hall precipitated the violence by making a homosexual suggestion.
The beatings included repeated pummelings with fists and boots and dragging Hall down a wooden staircase by his feet as "his head bounced down all of the steps," in one of the accused's words. He died naked and alone, in a field, where he had crawled after his killers dumped his body in a roadside ditch.
Police found Hall's body 10 days after his death wrapped in a tarp in the garage of Jackson County Deputy Coroner Terry Gray, whose son is one of the accused.
The Crothersville Times has more, quoted by Higgs:
"King said they were all drinking beer and whiskey when Hall grabbed him in the groin, asking King to perform oral sex. King said he punched Hall, then jumped on him, punching him several more times. King said Gray also punched Hall while King held Hall down."
Gray said King left the room after initially assaulting Hall. Gray said he walked over to ask Hall if he was all right. "Gray then admitted to striking Hall several times in the eye area causing significant damage," the Times reported.
Gray told police that King walked back into the room and moved Hall to the couch. "According to Gray, King then straddled Hall and began physically assaulting him multiple times with his hands," the paper said. Hendricks said the beatings "went on for several hours before Hall was loaded into Gray's pickup."
Before dragging Hall down the steps to Gray's Ford Ranger pickup, Gray said they assaulted him again on the deck. King said he and Gray "continued beating Hall as Hendricks drove south to the dirt farm lane." There they dumped Hall in a ditch and threw his camouflage coat over his body.
"King admitted to striking Hall a few more times," the Times said. "The trio then left Hall in the ditch."
The cold-hearted brutality of the murder is truly shocking. One of those allegedly involved is said to have even sent a text message photo to a friend that showed the beating victim between two of his attackers, almost as a hunting trophy.
There is some question about whether the victim, Aaron Hall, was actually gay or whether his alleged attackers are counting on homophobia to stigmatize the victim and hopefully lessen their punishment. Regardless, gay rights groups, the gay media, the blogosphere and the media generally need to pay attention to this case to make sure it is investigated properly -- including the possibility that it was an anti-gay hate crime.
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