MISSISSIPPI MURDERS (not so much fun)
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 94 16:49:09 PST
Subject: MISSISSIPPI MURDERS (not so much fun)
Forwarded-by: Dan Tenenbaum <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: Julia Leyda <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: Hands Off the University of Washington
Submitted by: Deborah L Taylor <email@example.com>
Your inquiries asking for more information into the matter of the two gay
men in Laurel, Mississippi has prompted me to send you the latest info on
this situation. Many of you would like to know why people believe the black
male is being falsely accused, and others would like to know the complete
"skinny" on this matter. Therefore, I will try to sum up as concisely as
possible the latest news, which I have received from April Richards, who is
President of G.L. Friendly in Biloxi, Mississippi, and is currently
receiving DEATH THREATS ALL DAY LONG! She is now being harassed by the
police department. On Saturday, November 26, April was stopped twice by the
police. One stop was for a "random warrant check." The next stop, one mile
down the road later, resulted in April's receiving a traffic citation for
going 57 mph in a 40 mph zone. April informs me that she was only going 35
The NGLTF is encouraging April to leave Mississippi because of the death
threats. She has decided to "fight it out." I have decided to fight it out
with her. Now more than ever, we need all of you who read this note to send
off the letter to the Governor of Mississippi (recopied below). We are still
sending them in Kansas. In my opinion, this is not just April's problem or
the families of the two murdered men's problem. It's Kansas' problem, as
well as every other state in our nation. Your correspondence, en masse,
will at the very least let people know that many of us across the United
States (both queer and straight) do not tolerate violations of civil
liberties and human rights. We are also hoping that either 20/20 or
Dateline might carry this story. Knowing that people all over the country
are aware of the murders in Mississippi might get one of them to do a story
on this horrible situation.
Before I forget, here are some numbers and addresses some of you have
April Richards, President
311 Caillavet Street
Biloxi, Mississippi 39530
G.L. Friendly's telephone number is 601-435-2398.
Janet Reno's address:
2320 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
The Clarion Ledger, which is Jackson, Mississippi's largest newspaper:
John Johnson, news editor
PO Box 40
Jackson, Mississippi 39025
The Clarion Ledger's telephone number is 601-961-7000.
The information below which discusses HIV testing on the murdered gay men by
the courts could have damaging repercussions on ALL people with HIV/AIDS. It
would be nice if some of us in the community knew a celebrity who is known
for supporting AIDS causes/research who could fight this cause with us (so
many celebrities were red ribbons--do you think that any one of them would
be willing to vocally fight?).
Thank you for your help.
Send all inquiries in this matter to firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT HAPPENED, by April Richards
On October 8, 1994, the bodies of Robert Walters and Joseph Shomake were
found off Houston Road in Laurel (Jones County), Mississippi. This is the
same county where Camp Sister Spirit has been subjected to ongoing
harassment. These men's bodies were found by two women walking by. Each
man had been shot once, execution style. One man was shot in the temple,
and the other was shot through the right eye at point-blank range. The body
of Robert Walters was found partially clothed.
Despite the fact that it was known that these men were gay, and despite the
fact that the men's credit cards and jewelry (diamond ring and gold watches)
were not taken, local police concluded the motive was robbery. The sheriff's
department found "nothing suspicious" and refused to designate this as a
bias-crime. The next day, when two members (April and Todd) of G.L.
Friendly (the g/l community center) from nearby Biloxi, MS, went to Laurel
to make inquiries and offer support, they were harassed, threatened, and
Five days after the crime, a 16-year-old African-American male was arrested.
We believe this young man was coerced into confessing to murdering the two
gay men. The different versions put forward of the events leading up to the
murders indicate that this young man did not commit the crime:
1. The police first said the young man confessed to killing the men because
he wanted to rob them of $100. When it was pointed out that no credit cards
or jewelry were taken, the story was changed.
2. The second version was that the two men offered the young man $20 to
allow them to give him a blow job. He allegedly became afraid they would
want more and killed them. This version was challenged as unlikely. The
story was changed again.
3. The third version was that the two men offered him $20 to take them to
buy marijuana. When the car went in the opposite direction, he allegedly
became afraid and killed them.
4. The fourth version was that the men tried (or threatened) to rape him.
It defies credibility that two men intent on raping someone would leave
their alleged victim alone in the back seat of an unlocked car. It's
further unlikely that both men would be shot by one person and neither put
up any resistance. And it is inconceivable that someone in the back seat
could reach around and shoot a driver point blank (gun against the face) in
the left eye while he was driving.
Recently, the defendant's attorney made a motion to have the blood of the
two dead men tested for HIV. In granting the motion, the judge said that if
the men were HIV-infected, it was like carrying a loaded gun. This is
extremely dangerous for these reasons:
1. If either man's blood tests positive for HIV antibodies, defendant's
counsel will move to have the charges dropped on grounds of justifiable
2. If this young man is let go, he may turn up dead (alleged suicide or
accident) to prevent him from ever telling his side of the story.
3. A legal precedent for testing the blood of murder victims for HIV
antibodies and using it to avoid responsibility for violent crimes against
gay men will be set.
OUTSTANDING QUESTIONS/INCONSISTENCIES IN THE
MURDERS, by April Richards
-The gold watch, diamond ring, and credit cards were left
behind, which is not consistent with a robbery motive.
-The execution-style murders are not consistent with a
-Body found partially clothed is not consistent with a
-How could the sheriff have known it was not a hate crime
before any investigation?
-Could only one individual have committed this crime?
-What evidence exists that cash was stolen?
-Why are public officials not willing to share this
-Why was evidence not delivered to the crime lab for
several days after being gathered and as of the time of
the arrest and arraignment?
-Where is the murder weapon?
-The sheriff and the coroner have repeatedly changed their
descriptions of the body as clothed, unclothed, and
partially clothed. Photographs of the body viewed by a
civil rights worker showed that one of the bodies was only
-Why did the sheriff speculate to the New York Times and WWL
Channel 4 in New Orleans on the sexual behavior of the
victims and gay men in general? Could the sheriff conduct
an unbiased investigation given his anti-gay attitudes?
-Is the amount of blood in the truck consistent with the
story that the victims were killeed in the truck? If not,
what is the real location of the killings? Is the blood
-Where are the clothes that the perpetrator was wearing
the night of the killing? Shouldn't bloody clothing be
-Are there vehicle tracks near the site where the bodies
were found which correspond to either the victims' or the
-Are there bruises, cuts, or other marks on the bodies
consistent with the sheriff's story that the bodies were
dragged to the location where they were found?
-The story was changed each time G.L. Friendly applied
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: HIV TESTING OF ROBERT
WALTERS AND JOSEPH SHOMAKE
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1994
CONTACT: APRIL RICHARDS, G.L. FRIENDLY,
BILOXI-As a Gay and Lesbian organization in this state, we protest the HIV
testing of Robert Waters and Joseph Shomake. Only in the state of
Mississippi would the justice system try to make two homosexuals responsible
for their own murders. If these tests are allowed in court, and the accused
is released for "Justifiable Homicide," we will be setting a legal
precedent--that killing someone with HIV, or someone who is presumed to be
HIV+, will not only be acceptable but excusable by the law. This is totally
unacceptable to us as a community, and we will take all legal actions we can
to prevent this motion from becoming law.
As a community, we have waited too long for an inept justice system to pass
laws to protect our rights as human beings. In fact, in our efforts to seek
justice in this matter, two of us have received threatening phone calls. If
it is necessary, we will call upon the Gay and Lesbian communities not only
in the state of Mississippi, but nationwide, to stand up and say, "NO MORE!"
Also we would like to state that we are very uncomfortable with the
inconsistencies that led to the arrest of Marvin McClendon. Our fear is
that another young African-American is being sacrificed through the
Mississippi judicial system, and asking the Jone's County Sheriff's
Department to investigate these murders is like asking the "fox to guard the
April and G.L. Friendly will issue a press release on Monday,
November 28, to protest the framing of Marvin McClendon.
This Thursday, December 1, is World AIDS Day. . .
Governor Kirk Fordice
PO Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205
Dear Governor Fordice,
I am writing to inform you that I am aware of the murders of two gay
men and the ensuing murder charge to a black minor in Laurel, Mississippi in
October of 1994.
The following information distresses me:
1. The Jones County Judge has agreed to test the bodies
of the two murdered gay men for HIV; he states that
if they are HIV+, then the murderer was justified in
killing the two men because, in the Judge's words,
someone who is HIV+ is the same as a person
"pointing a loaded gun at someone."
2. Jones County Sheriff Maurice Hooks has made
repeated offensive comments towards gays
and lesbians; he infers that they should all be killed.
3. Given the fact that the murders were execution-style, and
that the robbery motive is very suspect, I am
appalled that Mississippi has never investigated
this murder as a hate crime.
4. Given the fact that the evidence suggests that this type
of murder was physically impossible for a young
man to commit alone, I am concerned that the
black youth is being framed for a crime he did
The overall failure of Laurel, Mississippi to conduct a thorough
investigation of these murders and to find the real murderer, makes me
question the value system of the State of Mississippi. To whom are civil
liberties and human rights extended in Mississippi?
I urge you to stand up for the spirit of our constitution and seek
justice for the two murdered men and their families by supporting an outside
and thorough investigation into this matter. I would like to know that you
are personally looking into this investigation.
At present, I see Mississippi as a state of violence, hate, harassment,
and intimidation. Is this true, or can I soon see some evidence that it is
still a state which values all of its citizens and recognizes a person's
right to be human, and alive?
© 1994 Peter Langston