Remembering Victims of Hate Crimes
"Richard Labbe said he just hates Asians," Sam Chan told the Intelligence Report. On the evening of July 14, the apartment manager in Newmarket, N.H., was getting an earful of Labbe's prejudices.
A burly 35-year-old with a violent criminal history, Labbe was furious about an eviction notice Chan had served at the apartment where he was living with his son and girlfriend.
But he was mad about more than that. When Chan's elder friend, Laos native Thung Phetakoune, walked up to see if things were OK, Labbe erupted. "He told him basically, don't come near me or I'll kill you," Chan recalled.
Labbe's son told police he heard his father scream at Phetakoune, "So you like to kill Americans? Why don't you try to kill me?" Then Labbe allegedly shoved the frail, 120-pound Phetakoune, sending him sprawling backward and smashing his head on the pavement.
Two days later, the man known to a generation of local Laotian immigrants as "Grandpa Thung" died of head injuries.
It took two police officers to restrain and arrest Labbe. "These Asians killed my brother and uncle in Vietnam," he told police. "Call it payback. If you're not going to do anything about these Asians in my country, then I will."
In fact, according to Labbe's father, none of his relatives were killed in Vietnam. But the murder victim, Phetakoune, nearly died because he fought on the American side during that war.
After the United States withdrew its forces in 1975, Phetakoune had to swim across the treacherous Mekong River from Laos to Thailand to escape vengeance. When Phetakoune landed in Newmarket later that decade, he became a pioneer. When he wasn't working as a machine operator at a weather-stripping plant, he was helping new arrivals any way he could.
"When a family or a single person would come to live here, he would offer them a place to stay, room and food," said Chan. "He'd help them look for jobs, find places to live. He's done that — phew! — I don't know how many times."
Labbe may face life in prison because his second-degree murder charge is being enhanced with a hate-crime charge. It's the first time New Hampshire has invoked its 11-year-old law in a murder case.
Gary Raynal, 44
Kansas City, Kan.
In late August, a woman in Leawood, Kan., was out on a Sunday-morning stroll with her young son when she spied something terrible: a dead man's body in a dark, muddy alcove.
It had been 32 hours since Gary Raynal, a 44-year-old waiter from nearby Kansas City, was seen climbing into a pickup truck that pulled up outside a nearby bar where he had gone for a few beers.
Raynal's sister, Sandra Sheppard, said police told her that Raynal was sexually tortured with a metal rod, and that one of his ears had been burned while he was being beaten to death. To Sheppard, this sounded like a hate crime. Police were not so sure.
"That's not going to be a factor in how we investigate," police spokesman Steve McBride told a local newspaper soon after the murder. (Det. Sgt. Scott Hansen later told the Intelligence Report, "If we make the arrest and find it was a hate crime, we'll certainly prosecute it that way.")
Sheppard and McBride did agree on one thing: Raynal had probably been partly victimized by his own friendly nature.
With his family back in the San Francisco Bay area of California, Sheppard said, Raynal was always the jokester and the peacemaker. When she heard Rodney King wondering aloud if everyone could "just get along," she said, it sounded just like her brother.
According to McBride, Raynal's acquaintances told police that he was especially friendly when he was drinking. "He'd be very vulnerable," said McBride. "He'd get into the truck."
At press time, police were still trying to identify the other occupants of that truck.
Irving Sicherer, 76
Beverly Sicherer found her 76-year-old father's dead body in his Aventura, Fla., apartment on July 23. Soon enough, she made another discovery: Irving Sicherer, whose wife of nearly 40 years died in 1995, had kept his attraction to men a secret. And now it had apparently played a part in his brutal murder.
Police said Sicherer was bludgeoned to death by a man in his 20s who had come home with him from a gay club in nearby Sunny Isles Beach. The killer allegedly tortured Sicherer while ransacking his apartment, though he ultimately made off with nothing but the older man's Lincoln Mark VIII.
At first, authorities suspected Adam Ezerski (see the story of Anthony Martilotto, above) of killing Sicherer because he was gay, but a bloody footprint in the apartment did not match Ezerski's.
As the investigation continues into what police have classified as a "possible hate crime," Sicherer's daughter is left to mull over her discoveries.
Her father seemed the picture of a devoted husband, she says. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Irving Sicherer had spent his career in the food and beverage industry. For a year after his wife died in 1995, he kept her hairbrush, comb and slippers just as she had left them in their bedroom.
His daughter wonders if loneliness led him to seek out the company of young men.
"It upset me that my father had to hide that side of his whole life," Beverly Sicherer told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. "Maybe if he didn't have to hide it we could have talked, and I could have told him to be careful."