Fun_People Archive
29 Nov
MISSISSIPPI MURDERS (not so much fun)

Date: Tue, 29 Nov 94 16:49:09 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: MISSISSIPPI MURDERS (not so much fun)

Forwarded-by: Dan Tenenbaum <>
Forwarded-by: Julia Leyda <>
Forwarded-by: Hands Off the University of Washington

Submitted by: Deborah L Taylor <>

Dear Friends,

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
G.L. Friendly
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
Clarion Ledger
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

                    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 
constantly followed.

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.

                      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
     robbery motive.
 -Body found partially clothed is not consistent with a
     robbery motive.
 -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
     partially clothed.
 -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
     suspect's vehicle?
 -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


               FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1994


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. . .

=======================CUT HERE=======================

Governor Kirk Fordice
State Capital
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
          not commit.

     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?

Sincerely yours,

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []