Friday, July 21, 2006

Police Probe Link in Two Homicides

Police Probe Link in Two Homicides
by Peter Cassels
EDGE National News Editor
Wednesday Jul 19, 2006

The Boston Police Department is refusing to state publicly whether there’s a link between two recent murders, one in the South End in April and the other in the Fenway last weekend, but it is said to be investigating the possibility. Both deaths resulted from blunt force trauma.

Police said July 17 that the death of William Taylor, 66, who was found July 15 in his second-floor apartment at 15 Park Drive, has been ruled a homicide, the city’s 40th this year. Officer Michael McCarthy, a police spokesperson, said an autopsy showed that Taylor died of blunt force trauma.

Another man, David Hall, 43, was found beaten to death in his East Berkeley Street apartment April 7. Hall’s mother told the Boston Globe at the time that police had to identify her son through dental records, because his body was too battered to easily identify. That death also was ruled a homicide, police have reported.

According to members of the gay community, Hall was last seen leaving the Eagle, a gay bar on Tremont Street not far from his apartment, hours before his body was discovered.

On July 18, the Globe reported that police sources said there may be a link, but McCarthy told EDGE that he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. "I don’t know where the Globe reporter got the information that they are related," McCarthy said. "I can tell you that as crimes like this occur homicide investigators are always mindful of potential similarities. If similarities exist they would be the subject of a comprehensive investigation."

Building residents told the Globe that police have visited the Park Drive apartment since Taylor’s body was found and have canvassed the area, asking neighbors whether they saw or heard anything unusual. Residents said police have suggested the crime was not a random break-in. Video cameras cover the building’s front and rear entrances and police are said to be examining videotapes to determine if any strangers entered the building in the time immediately before Taylor’s body was discovered.

Benjamin Perkins, director of The Men’s Action Life Empowerment Center, a gay resource center in the South End affiliated with the AIDS Action Committee, told EDGE in a telephone interview that such incidents should motivate gay men to be more cautious.

"I think there’s always going to be some concern, especially if based on what we hear from the Boston police, if there’s some connection that will heighten the concern."Asked whether he believes the gay community is nervous, Perkins replied, "I think there’s always going to be some concern, especially if based on what we hear from the Boston police, if there’s some connection that will heighten the concern. It’s often very easy when nothing does happen to sort of not think about it, so this bursts the bubble of safety that many of us may have."

Perkins added that many in the gay community are on vacation at this time of year, so it’s hard to determine the degree of concern. "If this had happened in the fall or winter, it probably would be easier to get a gauge on what people are thinking."

Emily Pitt, director of the Violence Recovery Program, a gay counseling center that is part of the Fenway Community Health Center, told the Globe that when violence happens in the gay community, everyone feels at risk. "People feel, ’It could have happened to me,’ usually because it could have," Pitt said.

In a telephone interview July 18, Pitt told EDGE it’s hard to say whether there’s a specific increase in violence against gay men in Boston. "We have heard subjective reports but I don’t have any documentation," she explained.

Pitt added that her office compiles anti-gay hate-crime data annually and that she will not have a 2006 report until the end of the year. She did report a 30 percent increase in such crimes in 2004, a figure that remained unchanged in 2005. In 2004, the Violence Recovery Program saw spikes in hate crimes in February and March, when anti-gay rhetoric was on the increase because of the gay marriage debate during the state Constitutional Convention. "When there is a lot of antigay rhetoric, the rate of violence does go up," she pointed out.

The AAC’s Perkins told EDGE there are steps members of the gay community should take to deter the possibility of violence, especially in Internet dating. In workshops, he emphasizes "making sure that you let someone know where you’re going and meet people in a public place." Talking to a potential date on the phone first also helps one assess the situation, he said.

Perkins cautioned about the role alcohol plays in impairing judgment. "If you’re out in a club and have had too much to drink, look at whether that lowers your inhibitions," he counseled. "Be a little cautious. Whether there is someone out there inflicting violence or not, these are things that should be second nature."

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