Syracuse hate crime murder defendant in court today for hearing
By Jim O'Hara, The Post-Standard
June 01 2009
Latiesha "Teish" Green
Moses "Teish" Cannon
Syracuse, NY - The lawyer for a Syracuse man charged in Onondaga County's first hate-crime homicide prosecution is challenging the constitutionality of the law. Defense lawyer Clarence Johnson is asking County Judge William Walsh to dismiss a charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime against Dwight DeLee in the Nov. 14 shooting death of Moses "Teish" Cannon.
He claims the law is unconstitutionally vague and arbitrarily applied to DeLee, 20, of Gifford Street. The prosecution, which contends the crime was prompted by the victim's sexual orientation, has not yet responded to the defense challenge.
But both sides are due in court today to address other legal issues. Walsh is holding a hearing to address the admissibility at trial of identification testimony from six eyewitnesses and oral statements DeLee made to police two days after the fatal shooting.
Court papers indicate he denied involvement, claimed he was not present at the scene, added he could not "beat" this case but maintained he was not going to admit anything. Detective George Hack also reported DeLee said he "didn't mean for any of this to happen" and replied he did not know if the shooting was an accident.
Cannon, 22, has been described by family members as a transsexual who went by the name Latiesha "Teish" Green. The victim was shot while sitting in a car with a brother and a third person outside a home at 411 Seymour Street.
State law in effect since 2000 allows a defendant to be prosecuted on hate crime charges with evidence the crime was based on a belief or perception about the race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation of a person regardless of whether that perception or belief is correct.
Although Cannon often dressed as a woman, authorities said the victim was not dressed as a woman when shot.
Given that and no reported evidence DeLee said anything or knew anything about the victim's sexual orientation, Johnson is challenging the validity of the hate crime murder charge against his client.
The lawyer contends he cannot determine what "beliefs or perception" DeLee is accused of having that violated the hate law or what conduct DeLee exhibited to show the "selection" of a victim in "whole or substantial part" based on sexual orientation.
The law does not provide clear standards for enforcement and "impermissibly delegates basic policy determinations to the police, to prosecutors, and eventually to judges and juries for resolution on an ad hoc, subjective basis," Johnson contends.
Johnson also takes issue with the fact DeLee originally was charged with murder but not as a hate crime. He questions what internal policies of the District Attorney's Office led the prosecution to ask a grand jury to subsequently indict DeLee on a charge of murder as a hate crime.
Johnson also questions the validity of the prosecution given evidence it is only the second hate crime prosecution in Onondaga County since the law was enacted. He contends the law is being applied to DeLee in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.
It's unconstitutionally vague in that it fails to sufficiently define the terms "intentionally selects," "in whole or substantial part" and "a belief or perception," the defense contends.
"The 'beliefs and perception' language of the statute fails to provide any notice as to whether the phrase is referring to past or present beliefs or perceptions, or how such beliefs and perceptions may be expressed, either by words, symbols or associations, thereby opening the door to a vague and ill-defined body of evidence which may be claimed to constitute evidence of a hate crime," Johnson contends.
Apart from the constitutional issue, he also questions whether the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to the grand jury that DeLee selected a victim based on the victim's sexual orientation. If Cannon was not dressed in a manner to indicate a sexual preference and DeLee said nothing about the victim's sexual orientation, the defense challenges whether there is any evidence sexual orientation had anything at all to do with the case.
Scott Libby, 25, murdered in Bethel, Maine
(May 21 1983 - Feb 20 2009)
Mar 26 2009
Scott Libby cause and method of death official
New details concerning Scott Libby's murder include an official cause and method of death. Police said in an affidavit that Scott's killing was brutal. The story is in the Thursday, March 26 issue of Maine's Lewiston Sun Journal and Portland Press Herald.
Mar 05 2009
Arrest made in Scott Libby death
State police have charged a man from Bethel, Maine, with killing his former employer then leaving his body in a car on railroad tracks, where it was hit by a train. Police charged Agostino Samson, 23, who previously lived in Windham, in the death of Scott Libby, 25, of Raymond. More details can be found from a variety of news story sources linked to on the Scott Libby Memorial website by a Scott Libby cousin. There won't be any links to blog sites there. Scott's family is not commenting on the case.
Mar 18 2009 Video: Father of Lawrence King's killer found dead Fell while alone and drunk; found first day of arraignment; trial postponed
Now 15, Brandon McInerney is set to be tried for murder as an adult. McInerney is also charged with a hate crime and discharging a gun for killing Lawrence King, 14 by shooting him from behind and then walking over to King and adminstering the final shot him in the head. He is in custody, with bail set at $770,000 and faces a sentence of 51 years to life if convicted of all the charges.
Lawrence King will never get any older than 14.
"It seemed that this school shooting was being ignored or swept under the rug due to Larry's sexuality and gender expression. Little did we know when the coverage did come, it would be like another bashing."
Roberto “Pancho” Duncanson
20, Murdered in Brooklyn, New York May 12 2007
Guilty Verdict in 2007 Murder of Roberto Duncanson
2nd-degree murder, no hate crime
by Duncan Osborne
Mar 18 2009
(edited version, full story at GayCityNews)
Following a roughly three-day trial and four days of deliberation, a Brooklyn jury found Omar Willock guilty of second-degree murder in the 2007 stabbing death of Roberto Duncanson, a 20-year-old gay man.
"Justice was served," was the only comment from Howard Jackson, the prosecutor in the case, following the March 18 verdict.
The prosecution relied primarily on two witnesses -- Belinda Toon, who knew the 18-year-old Willock, but did not see him stab Duncanson, and Jeimar Brown, who saw a man stab Duncanson, but never identified Willock as that man.
The jury saw a videotape taken on St. Marks Avenue in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section early in the morning on May 12, 2007 in which Toon identified herself and Omar. At one point, she can be seen trying to keep him from running down the sidewalk after Duncanson.
As the verdict was read, Karen Sterling-Palmer, Duncanson's mother, leaned back in her seat with tears welling up in her eyes. Her family and friends as well as Duncanson's friends sat through the hearings and trial. She declined to comment following the verdict.
Omar's father attended pre-trial hearings and the entire trial often with friends and family. He sat alone and expressionless as the jury foreperson read the verdict. He declined to comment, as did Benjamin Heinrich, Omar's attorney.
Omar had faced two counts of second-degree murder, one as a hate crime that charged he killed Duncanson because he was gay. [Judge] Firetog dismissed the hate crime count.
In his closing statement, Jackson cited Omar's repeated use of "faggot" as the motivation for the killing.
Omar will be sentenced on May 5 and faces a minimum sentence of 15-years-to-life and a maximum of 25-years-to-life. The hate crime count would have increased the minimum to 20-years-to-life. The average time served for second-degree murder in New York is just under 25 years.
Teen cites "gay panic" in murder of Roberto Duncanson The Advocate Jun 16 2007-Jun 18 2007
A Brooklyn, N.Y., teenager has been indicted on murder charges for fatally stabbing a man because he was gay, Kings County prosecutors said Thursday.
Roberto Duncanson, 20, also of Brooklyn, died soon after the May 12 attack.
Alleged killer Omar Willock, 17, faces 25 years to life if convicted.
Feb 28 2009 Joseph Eli ("Smiley") Bearden found guilty
Immediate Sentence: Life in prison plus 40 years
Feb 28 2009 From Equality Florida Today, Joseph Bearden, one of the two accused killers of Ryan Skipper, was found guilty of second-degree murder and robbery.
On March 15, 2007, Ryan Skipper was stabbed 19 times and left to die on a dirt road in Polk County, Florida. His death is a bloody reminder of the anti-gay hatred faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in our state.
Just days ago, a prosecution witness revealed that shortly after the killing, Joseph Bearden, the defendant, said, "He felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot."
The 19 stab wounds that Ryan Skipper suffered are what the FBI calls "overkill". That's when the violence in an assault is beyond what would be necessary for a robbery and more than would even be required to take someone's life. Overkill is a key indicator of a hate crime.
During his closing statement, State Attorney Castillo said the brutality of Ryan's murder indicated, "hatred, contempt and utter disregard for another human being because he was gay."
Hate crimes are directed at groups of people. They are intended to make an entire community afraid simply because of who they are.
But hate crimes are only effective as a two-step dance: first the offender sends fear into people's hearts with a heinous act of violence. Then leaders around them act like nothing more happened than a car theft gone wrong. No action. No public acknowledgment of what has happened. No commitment to ensuring this never happens again. Their silence is as terrifying as the violence itself.
Take action. Tell Florida governor Crist and Florida Attorney General McCollum that they must refuse to be the second step in the cycle of anti-gay hate violence. Tell them to speak out, to turn the tide and declare that gay and transgender people are valued members of our society and that hate violence will not be tolerated against any group.
Feb 19 2009 From Equality Florida's Executive Director, Nadine Smith:
As the trial of Ryan Skipper's accused murderer unfolds, it is clear that anti-gay hatred played a significant role in Ryan's murder. According to a witness who took the stand yesterday:
"He (Bearden) said he didn't like gays."
Prosecutors then revealed that the same witness previously told police:
"(Bearden) felt he was doing the world a favor by getting rid of one more faggot."
Today is just the third full day of the trial of Joseph Bearden, one of the two accused murderers of Ryan Skipper. Ryan was a well-loved young gay man who lived his life openly in one of Florida's most rural and conservative areas - Polk County.
In March of 2007, Ryan was brutally stabbed 19 times. According to witnesses, two suspects drove Ryan's blood-soaked car around and bragged to their friends about savagely killing him.
After a month of scant attention in the media following Ryan's murder, Equality Florida joined with Ryan's family and friends to host a 14-city vigil to commemorate Ryan and to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of anti-LGBT hate violence. Over 1,000 people came out to show their love and support and to condemn the media's lack of coverage.
Hate crime laws provide a penalty enhancement in Florida. However, since Bearden is being tried for capital murder, there is no greater penalty. While the prosecutor has chosen to downplay to hate-crime aspect of Ryan's murder during trial, Ryan's family has stood strong in their resolve to shine a light on the horrible impact hate crimes have on families and communities.
To that end, they issued the following statement on the first day of the trial:
"Our son, Ryan Skipper, was a beautiful human being and a gift to our family and his friends. That gift has been taken away from all of us and nothing will change that.
This trial will be painful to all who love Ryan and cherish his memory. We are grateful to everyone who has sent their love and support to our family from the tragic day to the beginning of this trial.
We know that hate is at the root of this terrible crime. While Florida has a hate crime penalty enhancement law, we recognize that a hate crime charge is not being pursued because a first-degree murder conviction already brings the harshest penalty the court can impose.
We will continue to speak out against prejudice and hate violence. Anti-gay hate crimes have increased dramatically in Florida over the past five years according to reports from the Florida Attorney General. We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate crimes and we all must seek justice for the victims.
We've been advised to prepare for "blame-the-victim" tactics, which are frequently used by those trying to escape justice. They have taken his life but we will not allow them to sully our memories of our son, brother and friend. Nothing that is said at trial could ever shake our confidence in that. We will remain focused on seeking justice for the life that has been taken. Ryan was loved and important to his family and friends, a good and valuable member of this community and society."
Equality Florida members Vicki Nantz and Mary Meeks have graciously stepped up to be the family's spokespersons during their difficult, daily attendance at the trial.
To read daily updates from Vicki and Mary, visit www.cfbulletin.com and click on the "Skipper Trial" link.
NY Post NYPD Police Blotter Apr 25 2008
New York City--A Highbridge man was charged with murder after fatally stabbing his roommate who allegedly had been "making a homosexual advance" toward him, police sources said yesterday.
Michael Wells, 32, became irate and rejected the advances from the unidentified 58-year-old man in their apartment at Ogden Avenue and West 170th Street at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, police sources said. Wells grabbed a knife, chased his roommate and stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and back, cops said.
The victim was rushed to Lincoln Hospital, where he died. Police arrested Wells at the scene.
Anthony Fortunato, 21, became the second man to be convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime in the targeted robbery of Michael Sandy which resulted in his death.
A friend of John Fox and Fortunato, Joseph Folio, 17, testified that the day after the botched robbery the two men were laughing over a New York Post headline: "Left for dead in thug attack."
Prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi said that on Oct 08 2006 Fortunato hatched the idea to meet a man in a gay chat room, direct him to a remote pickup spot on Plumb Beach and rob him. He allegedly bragged to his friends - Ilya Shurov, 21, Fox, 21, and Gary Timmins, 17 - that gay men were easy targets, adding he had pulled a similar ambush before.
Fortunato's defense attorney said Fortunato had a more complex plan in mind: He hoped to take Sandy's money, buy pot, smoke it with his friends, tell them he was gay - and then maybe get lucky with Sandy. But Shurov allegedly sucker-punched Sandy, who fled onto the Belt Parkway. A witness said that his attackers pinned Sandy to the hood of a car before he wrenched away - straight into an oncoming vehicle.
The prime suspect in a deadly assault that outraged Sacramento's gay community has fled to Russia, Sacramento County sheriff's investigators said Tuesday.
Another suspect in the July death of Satender Singh, which authorities are calling a hate crime, is scheduled to make his first court appearance today on charges connected to the incident.
The naming Tuesday of Andrey Vusik, 29, of West Sacramento, who is out of the country, and Aleksandr Shevchenko, 21, of Sacramento marked a major step forward in the explosive case, said Sheriff John McGinness.
Vusik is charged with involuntary manslaughter rather than murder because the evidence does not show any intent to kill Singh, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said in a statement released Tuesday.
But Tuesday's action brought at least one family closer to a resolution.
"We are relieved that he will have justice," said Singh's uncle Camie Bhuie, "and we hope they can bring back the other culprit soon."
The news arrived a month after the death of 26-year-old Singh, a native of Fiji, who died July 5 of head trauma, days after he was punched in a confrontation on the Lake Natoma shore.
In the month since, the incident has reverberated across the local gay community and captured the attention of state and national politicians, who are pushing for tougher hate-crime legislation.'
Singh's friends and supporters have said the assault was fueled by homophobia and hate, coming after a string of racial slurs and anti-gay jibes allegedly made by a Russian-speaking group at the state park.
"It is important to make a statement that we as a society will not tolerate this kind of behavior," McGinness said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the suspects.
Homicide investigators say Vusik threw the lethal punch.
The West Sacramento man, whose wife and children remain in the area, is still at large in Russia, where he is being sought on a charge of involuntary manslaughter and committing a hate crime, said Sgt. Connie Merkins of the sheriff's homicide bureau.
In an interview with The Bee, Vusik's wife, Tatyana, insisted he is innocent and acted in self-defense -- not out of hate. She characterized Singh's death as an accident.
The other suspect in the case, Shevchenko, surrendered voluntarily at his home Monday, according to Merkins. He is charged with intimidation and interfering with a victim's rights, which is also a hate crime.
Merkins said the Sheriff's Department is working with the FBI to find Vusik and extradite him from Russia. FBI officials have declined to comment on the case.
"We actually talked to him by telephone on Sunday," Merkins said. "He said this has scared the hell out of him."
Merkins said Vusik and Shevchenko were identified based on witness interviews -- along with a license plate number supplied by Singh's friends and a fingerprint found on evidence gathered by state park police.
The sheriff also acknowledged a "good old-fashioned gumshoe" effort.
If convicted, Vusik could face a maximum of eight years in prison, while Shevchenko faces a maximum of three years.
Shevchenko, who remained at the main jail in lieu of $25,000 bail, could not be reached Tuesday.
In the weeks since Singh's death, Tatyana Vusik said she has struggled with the serious accusations that have clouded her family and the larger Slavic community. The crime, she said through a Russian translator, has become exaggerated in political circles. She said gay activists are trying to make an example of her husband, who she says is "a good man."
That day at Lake Natoma, Tatyana Vusik said she and her family were relaxing and enjoying the view.
Her husband barbecued, while their young children played nearby.
It seemed like a pleasant afternoon, Tatyana Vusik said, until a neighboring party -- which included Singh -- grew raucous.
She said the revelers were drinking alcohol, swearing loudly and dancing provocatively.
The mother said she then saw Singh leap onto a table, swishing his shirt between his legs. Others around him smashed bottles. She said she saw two men kissing.
"We're a Christian family," Tatyana Vusik said.
She said she asked her husband to tell Singh's group to calm down, that there were children present.
At that point, Tatyana Vusik said, the other group began attacking her family verbally, telling them to go back to Russia. She said the group cursed at her and her sister, Dasha Yakovchuk.
Tatyana Vusik recalled that it was Singh who first mentioned "gay" as part of a crude sexual invitation apparently meant for her husband.
She recalled that her husband said the atmosphere was growing tense, so he used the word "gay" as part of a joke.
She said neither she nor her husband is part of any anti-gay group or movement.
An earlier version of events from the Sheriff's Department has confirmed that there was a confrontation between the two groups, but that the "Russian-speaking" group had hurled homophobic slurs at Singh and racial remarks at him and his friends, according to witness statements.
"That's what they say, but they don't know the truth," Yakovchuk told The Bee in an interview Tuesday. "It was exactly the other way around."
Tatyana recalled that after the exchange began, she, her sister and the children left the park. Her husband and Shevchenko and another friend stayed behind.
When Vusik came home later that night, he told his wife there was a confrontation, and he acted in self-defense. She recalled that Vusik said Singh had lifted a broken glass bottle and aimed at him. He threw a "soft punch" and ran away, Tatyana Vusik said.
Sheriff's detectives said there are no accounts from independent witnesses or any of Singh's friends that support that account.
Tatyana Vusik said her husband had no idea that Singh had died when he left in early July for a business trip exporting vehicles.
She refused to disclose her husband's whereabouts, but said she has spoken with him at least twice a week since he left.
In their phone conversations, she said, Andrey Vusik has repeatedly expressed his condolences to Singh's family. She said he is having a difficult time grasping the gravity of the crime.
"We just got in the confrontation between the churches and the gay community; what happened was a tragic accident, and had nothing to do with gays," she said through a translator.
After Tuesday's press conference, community activists gathered at sheriff's headquarters to express gratitude.
"This is very significant -- we're moving forward," said Georgette Imura, a leader in the Asian/Pacific Islander community and chair of the Satender Justice Coalition. "I'm very excited that the suspects have been identified and that they have been charged with hate crimes."
Sacramento's gay and lesbian community was particularly shocked at Singh's death, fearing that it represented an escalation in the rift between them and Slavic evangelical leaders who preach that homosexuality is a sin.
Sgt. Merkins said Tuesday that she could provide no information about the church affiliations of Vusik or Shevchenko.
Beating death symbolic of local tensions
By Crystal Carreon - Bee Staff Writer
Published Friday Jul 13 2007
Today, those who knew Satender Singh will gather at a Sacramento mortuary to mourn a young man whose life ended too soon, in a flash of violence his friends say was fueled by bigotry and fear.
They will come together to remember the 26-year-old, a Fijian immigrant, as meticulously dressed, always sharing a smile and a loud, melodic laugh that infused a room with joy.
Many who didn't know Singh will be there as well. In death, he has emerged as a symbol of wounds that have festered for some time between Sacramento's gay community and members of the Slavic evangelical community, a thousands-strong group that has become a vocal force denouncing gay rights. It is that rhetoric, some contend, that fueled the attack on Singh earlier this month at Lake Natoma.
"This homicide sort of brings to light what has been feared," said Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who attended a vigil for Singh last week. "It's tragic evidence of a larger point."
The circumstances surrounding the July 1 beating remain under investigation, but Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said this week "there is a strong probability" the assault was a hate crime. He characterized the case as high priority, and said detectives still want to speak with those involved and find the person responsible. As of Thursday, no arrests had been made.
Singh was picnicking near Lake Natoma with a small group of Fijian and Indian friends when the attack occurred, according to two people with him that day. The Bee is not identifying the friends because they fear retribution.
Singh was at the park that Sunday to celebrate a promotion he had earned at his call center job, according to the friends, and the group was drinking and dancing to Indian music. Singh was the only one without a date, and was hugging and dancing with other men.
In the hours preceding the attack, a group described as Russian-speaking hurled explicit gay slurs and racial remarks at Singh and his party, according to witnesses and sheriff's officials. When Singh and his friends tried to leave around 8 p.m., they were confronted by the Slavic group and a fight ensued, the witnesses said.
Singh was punched -- once -- in the face. He fell backward and cracked his head, rupturing a part of the brain stem that controls most of life's functions. He died four days later.
Singh's death has struck a deep chord in Sacramento's gay community, whose members have expressed concern in the past year over aggressive anti-gay protests Slavic evangelical Christians have staged at area schools and the Capitol.
"We could read the writing on the wall," said Nathan Feldman of Sacramento's "Being Gay Today" cable-access show. "This was not a random thing; this has been building up."
For the past year, Feldman said, he has documented the growing volatility around the protests, and was moved to stage a counter-protest last July at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, the region's largest evangelical congregation.
The Sacramento area is home to about 100,000 Russian-speaking residents, community leaders say. About a third of those residents are evangelical Christians who espouse a literal interpretation of the Bible. Those leading the anti-gay protests -- many of whom fled religious persecution in the former Soviet Union -- maintain they're exercising their newfound freedom of speech to spread the message that homosexuality is a sin.
"What's going on is very complicated," Feldman said this week. "It's almost a social war starting in Sacramento."
Steinberg, who last year rode as a dignitary in the city's annual gay pride parade, said he has been struck by the magnitude of vitriol emanating from the evangelical protests.
"Some of the epithets, some of the signs are not only disrespectful of the gay and lesbian community, but they are disrespectful of the entire community," he said. "The words are vile ... and words may give people the implicit license to take the next step and hurt people."
Though sheriff's investigators have yet to identify Singh's attackers, leaders in the area's gay and Asian Pacific Islander communities have united behind the belief he was a victim of a hate crime and are responding in force.
Last week, the groups held vigils in his honor, and this week local leaders formed the Satender Justice Coalition, a task force that plans to host forums and letter-writing campaigns to call attention to acts of prejudice and bigotry.
"Why has Mr. Singh's death galvanized this community?" asked Georgette Imura of the Council of Asian Pacific Islanders Together for Advocacy. "He was targeted because of his ethnicity and his perceived sexual orientation ... and possibly, his racial background. It's touched us on so many different levels."
Florin Ciuriuc, a former executive director of the Slavic Community Center of Sacramento, said he was disturbed but not surprised to hear of the attack at Lake Natoma.
Ciuriuc said he was among those leading anti-gay protests a few years back but that he stopped participating as the movement became more menacing.
"I saw that people were hungry for violence, for blood; different ideas where we have to be aggressive, where we have to scream," he said. "I don't want people from my community killing each other or other people because they are getting aggressive."
Viktor Chernyetsky, administrator of Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, strongly disagreed with Ciuriuc's assessment. Chernyetsky said Slavic leaders teach homosexuality is a sin, but do not support physical violence.
"You can express your view legally. You can go to the Capitol. You can put up signs," Chernyetsky said. "But to resort to physical violence, we are strongly against this."
He said the community will continue to fight against gay rights because that is their moral duty.
"We see danger that comes from the gay community, in Sacramento especially," said Chernyetsky. "This issue is so important for our families and for our kids, and by the way, for the future for our country.
"So probably," he said, "we need to be more vocal."
Kenneth Cummings, Jr. Found Killed June 16 2007, in Texas
FACTS EXCLUSIVE: Murder suspect — I did it
By John Tompkins
Published July 14, 2007
ANGLETON — A man accused of killing a Pearland flight attendant confessed to going to a known gay bar to pick out a target, then going home with him and stabbing him with a knife.
Terry Mark Mangum, 26, of Cypress was arrested in June on a murder charge and was indicted Thursday by a Brazoria County grand jury.
He is accused of killing Kenneth Cummings Jr., 46, in Cummings’ Pearland home June 5, then cleaning up the blood and driving to a ranch owned by Mangum’s grandfather outside Poteet to bury his body.
When told about his indictment, Mangum told The Facts through a pane of glass and a phone in a stall at the county detention center that he would plead guilty to the charges against him.
“I did it,” he said. “Bottom line is I stabbed him in the head with a knife.”
Cummings’ remains were found burned and buried at the ranch and later positively identified by the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office.
Contacted through Brazoria County sheriff’s officials, Mangum agreed to the face-to-face interview with The Facts at the county detention center Friday.
Mangum, who sounded energetic and upbeat, said he met Cummings at a bar in Houston that is a known hangout for homosexual men, and that he was carrying out God’s judgment and “sacrificing” Cummings’ body.
Mangum said it was “my belief of God judging him,” and Cummings “just happened to be the one that I bumped into.”
Asked if he was targeting Cummings because he was a homosexual, Mangum said, “that was the goal.”
Mangum did not specify for what he targeted Cummings, but he did say what he did was “righteous.” He said further, “I believe I’m Elijah out of the Bible.”
Elijah is a prophet noted in the Bible for challenging false idol worship and warning the ancient Israeli King Ahab of a severe drought.
Mangum’s statements to The Facts contradicted what he has told police, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne said.
“Mr. Mangum has never denied he had met Mr. Cummings,” Yenne said. “He has denied to police killing Mr. Cummings.”
Speaking in a conversational tone, Mangum made it a point to say he was not homosexual.Mangum had told police he was looking at homosexual men at gay bars because he believed they had more money and could meet some of his expenses to attend a welding school, Yenne said. He did not tell police he specifically targeted Cummings for murder, she said.
When contacted by The Facts about Mangum’s confession, Cummings’ father, Kenneth Cummings Sr. of Texas City, asked if stabbing his son in the head would be “enough to knock him out?”
Cummings then declined to comment about his son’s death.
“In view of the fact that there’s going to be a trial, I don’t think I should say anything,” he said.
Cummings Sr. has told Houston media that his son was a peacemaker and that he was saving up money for his 4-year-old niece and 18-month-old nephew to attend college.
Pearland Police Detective Jon Matherne, who investigated Cummings’ disappearance, also said he did not want to comment about the case, except to say he was glad Mangum finally admitted to killing Cummings.
“The important thing here is Kenneth Cummings’ family has the satisfaction that he’s at least owned up to what he’s done,” Matherne said.
Mangum told police in interviews that he followed Cummings to his home to drink and that Cummings had given Mangum his wallet and allowed him to use his credit cards. The Houston Chronicle has reported Mangum used Cummings’ credit cards at various convenience stores in San Antonio and Schulenburg, both along Interstate 10 and between San Antonio and Houston, to purchase sodas, hydrogen peroxide and cigarettes.
Because Mangum indicated he killed Cummings because of his sexual orientation, Yenne said she would seek a hate crime enhancement to Mangum’s murder charge.
“I go with what I absolutely know the evidence will show,” Yenne said.
Yenne said she would not seek to refile Mangum’s indictment in order to pursue a capital murder charge. If a defendant has a hate crime enhancement, officials are not as likely to grant parole, Yenne said.
“This would seriously affect his ability to receive parole,” she said.
Mangum also has been charged with tampering with evidence and possessing and fraudulent use of identifying information. Those charges are based on allegations he used Cummings’ credit cards during the drive to dispose of Cummings’ body and that he cleaned up Cummings’ home after the murder, police said.
Pearland police searched Cummings’ home in Pearland after he was reported missing in June and found many blood remnants that could only be found with what police called an “alternative light source” and chemical agents, court documents state. They also found broken pieces of glass and many items that had been “disturbed,” indicating signs of a struggle, court documents state.
Police then searched Mangum’s home and found a bloody sock and found cleaning agents inside his truck. Mangum also had Cummings’ wallet, credit cards and checkbook when his home was searched, court documents state. Police also noted Mangum had several cuts on his thumbs, court documents state.
Mangum admitted to The Facts that he took and used Cummings’ credit cards.
When asked why he hid Cummings’ body at his grandfather’s land in Poteet when he felt he was “righteous” in killing him, Mangum said, “I didn’t know where else to go.”
At the time of the interview with The Facts, Mangum did not have an attorney, Yenne said. A judge appointed Angleton attorney Perry Stevens as his attorney Friday afternoon. Stevens could not be reached for comment about the case late Friday.
Defendants who are arrested and have not specifically applied for an attorney usually are given one after they are indicted, Yenne said. However, at any time after they are arrested, a defendant can fill out paperwork for indigent status, she said.
“If Mr. Mangum had requested counsel, counsel would have been appointed to him in a timely manner,” she said.
Mangum was being held Friday on $500,000 bond.
John Tompkins covers the Brazoria County Courthouse for The Facts. Contact him at (979) 849-8581.
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because of their chosen religion . . . and now including the
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