Intelligence Report

Remembering Victims of Hate Crimes

The Intelligence Report profiles hate crime victims murdered in 2001, many of whom have been forgotten by the public.

Chances are, you heard what happened in 1998 to James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard. The two men's murders put hate crimes in national headlines and on the nightly news — but only for a time.

Chances are, you didn't hear what happened in 2001 to Robert Spencer and Fred Martinez Jr. Spencer, a father of eight, was carrying a sandwich out of a convenience store in Lake County, Fla., when he was gunned down by a man who had vowed to "take out" as many black people as he could. He died minutes later in the arms of his son.

Martinez, a 16-year-old Navajo who believed he had the spirit of a female inside him, was allegedly beaten with a boulder and left to die by an 18-year-old who later boasted that he had "bug-smashed a joto" — derogatory Spanish slang for homosexual. His badly decomposed body was found five days later.

Like Byrd and Shepard, Spencer and Martinez were killed for one reason: they were members of groups that some people despise. But as with most hate murders, no matter how horrific, neither of these tragedies became a national cause célèbre.

Still, such horror stories happen, year after year, with unsettling regularity.

The Intelligence Report has identified 21 victims of apparent hate murders in the United States in 2001. They ranged in age from 16 to 76. They were slain in 12 states, with four victims each in California and Florida.

Six of the victims were perceived as being from the same ethnic or religious group as the Sept. 11 terrorists; 11 were either gay, transgender or perceived as such; one was black; one was Hispanic; two were Asian-American.

The Intelligence Report went beyond official reports to compile its 2001 list. Researchers checked local newspaper accounts and law-enforcement reports. They interviewed investigators and human rights activists, along with friends and families of victims. Even so, the count is surely incomplete.

As reported in the Winter 2001 issue of the Intelligence Report, the national effort to document hate crimes has been a failure since data collection began in 1991.

The system is hobbled by the voluntary nature of reporting, errors made by reporting departments and states, misunderstanding of what constitutes a hate crime, falsified data, and the reluctance of victims to report hate crimes to the authorities.

As a result, fewer than one-sixth of U.S. hate crimes are reported to the FBI.

There is another reason why some hate murders go unrecognized. Hate-crime cases are hard to solve — so hard that at press time, no arrests had been made in almost half of the murders documented in the following pages.

When the motive is hate, the perpetrators are often complete strangers to their victims — and that makes them particularly difficult to track down. Even when arrests are made, the hate motive can be difficult to prove.

Sometimes, law-enforcement agencies shy away from classifying homicides as acts of hate because such cases may throw a poor light on the communities in which they happen. They "look bad."

So if a case is questionable, law enforcement agencies may prefer to classify the vicious killing of someone in a sexual, racial or religious group as a robbery — or, if nothing was taken from the victim, as an attempted robbery.

But the reality, especially when the victim is gay, is that extreme violence is often a telltale sign of a hate crime.

What's not so hard to determine is the devastating effect these killings can have.

Like all hate crimes, they send a message: Merely by virtue of being in a particular racial, religious or sexual preference group — or if someone thinks you "look like one" — you could be the next target, the next Robert Spencer or Fred Martinez Jr.

Why is it important to tell these stories? Ask Beulah Spencer, who was shocked not only by her father's murder, but also by how little attention it generated. "People need to know that these things still happen," she said. "You might not think it, but it's out there."

Abdo Ali Ahmed, 51
Reedley, Calif.
September 29 was shaping up as just another Saturday for Abdo Ali Ahmed. At 7 a.m., the 51-year-old Muslim from Yemen crossed the dusty lot from his family's modest home to his convenience store to begin a 14-hour workday.

He unlocked the doors and waited for customers to drop by for coffee, smokes and quiet conversation on their way to the orchards and packing houses of California's Central Valley.

Two days before, outside a supermarket in nearby Dinuba, Ahmed had found a death-threat note on his car's windshield: "We're going to kill all you [expletive] Arabs."

According to family members, it wasn't the first threat Ahmed had gotten since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.

When taunted or threatened in person, Ahmed would calmly reply, "I am a citizen." When he found the note, he balled it up and threw it in the trash, telling one of his eight children not to bother calling the police. "God will take care of it," he said.

But around 4 p.m. that Saturday afternoon, the threats were made real. Ahmed was shot three times in the torso, a few feet from the American flag he had taped in the window of his East Reedley Market.

Witnesses in the Hawg Jaws Bar next door saw two teenage men hop in a car with two others and speed away. Ahmed crawled into the bar, crumpled on the floor and died in his wife's arms while waiting for medical attention.

Three months later, Fatima Ahmed remained incapacitated by grief. "When they killed my husband," she said, "they killed me."

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department investigated Ahmed's murder as a botched robbery. They had made no arrests when this issue of the Intelligence Report went to press.

Mohammad Rocka, a local activist, summed up sentiments in the local Muslim community: "Mr. Ahmed is one more victim of the tragedy of Sept. 11."

Kenneth Chiu, 17
Laguna Hills, Calif.
It's not supposed to happen in a place where Mediterranean-style homes, featuring three-car garages and plentiful palm trees, sell for $750,000.

It's not supposed to happen to a nice kid like Kenny Chiu, a rising senior who played on Laguna Hills High's varsity golf team and was summed up by his assistant principal as "a good boy and a good student who was always courteous and respectful."

But it did happen, around midnight on July 30. When Chiu came home from visiting a friend, he was stabbed several times in his family's driveway.

Alerted to the stabbing, Orange County deputies found Chiu barely alive, lying in a pool of blood just a few feet away from his family's Lexus SUV. They also found an anti-Asian epithet scratched into the SUV. Chiu's family was Taiwanese-American.

Chiu was rushed to nearby Mission Hospital, where he died about an hour later. Among his last words, he was able to identify his alleged assailant: next-door neighbor Christopher Hearn, a 20-year-old deaf mute another neighbor described as "just pure anger."

Hearn was charged with first-degree murder, and with two special circumstances that allow California prosecutors to seek the death penalty: lying in wait and killing because of ethnicity.

Marcell Eads, 58
Wichita, Kan.
"We're going to party," Marcell Eads told his niece on the night of June 28. The 58-year-old Wichita man had met 18-year-old Zachary Steward a few years before, when Eads was working as a hair stylist.

Lately he had told friends and family members that he was having an affair with Steward. After drying out in rehab and taking classes to become a drug counselor, Eads had also started drinking again.

"Hey, you be careful," his niece replied. "You don't know what kids are up to these days."

The kids — Steward and his 16-year-old friend, Brandon Boone — allegedly beat Eads severely that night with a rock, a broomstick and the end of a table, an attack so brutal that it appeared to have been motivated by hate.

Police said the teenagers left Eads' small bungalow with his stereo and computer, then returned later to set the place on fire. "Maybe they decided they hadn't killed him yet," Eads' sister, Emily Frederick, told the Intelligence Report.

By the time he was dragged out of his house by firefighters, Eads was dead from burns and smoke inhalation.

At a preliminary hearing, Boone's girlfriend testified that on the night of the killing she heard Steward say he was angry that Eads had propositioned him. She said Steward used an anti-gay slur to describe Eads, and asked Boone to go with him to beat up the man and steal things from his home.

Steward and Boone both blamed the violence on Eads' supposed unwanted sexual advances. They blamed each other for beating Eads nearly to death, and for setting the fire.

Both were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery — but not with a hate crime, which would have enhanced their sentences under Kansas law.

Frederick said she asked the investigators "explicitly if this was a hate crime, and they just danced around it. They were going for murder, arson and robbery."

In January, Steward was sentenced to life plus six years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years. Boone was expected to be tried as an adult early this year.

Edgar Garzon, 35
Queens, N.Y.
Twelve years ago, the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, N.Y. — often considered a bastion of diversity — was jolted by the murder of Julio Rivera.

Rivera was beaten to death in an area with several gay bars and a well-known cruising block. According to local activist Andres Duque, "If you wanted to bash a gay Latino, this is where you'd go."

Things had changed since 1990, when Rivera's murder galvanized the local gay community and turned it into a political force. Or so most people thought before Aug. 15.

Early that morning, less than a block away from where Rivera was killed, Colombia native Edgar Garzon had his head bashed in with a lead pipe or a baseball bat — police aren't sure which.

Garzon, a set designer for local theater companies, lay unconscious for three weeks before dying on Sept. 4.

Garzon was passing through the cruising area with a friend, headed home from a restaurant, when a car pulled up beside him around 4 a.m. The two men in the car said something to Garzon. His friend didn't hear what was said.

A few minutes later, after Garzon and his friend said goodbye for the night and parted, the car apparently circled around the block and caught up with Garzon again.

A surveillance camera on a nearby bank caught the car, but not the men inside. It also showed Garzon stopping and "looking intently inside the car, staring them down," according to his friend, Duque. Words were exchanged.

When Garzon started back on his way, someone in the car went after him — and out of camera range. His friend heard tires screech, ran back and found Garzon lying in a pool of blood.

Duque said it wouldn't have been out of character for Garzon to stare down a harasser. "He was a very introspective person. But if he didn't like somebody, he would let the person know. He could be a big diva."

Garzon had to be tough to make it after he left his family in Colombia and moved to New York. But Duque said he carried an "inner glow" that made people gravitate toward him — even if they would usually shun a gay man.

One of Garzon's coffin-bearers was the 22-year-old son of his best friend, a single mother who immigrated from Colombia and became attached to Garzon.

"He's a rough Latino boy," Duque said of the woman's son, "but he loved Eddie. After the attack, he wanted to go get those guys."

Police are investigating Garzon's murder as a hate crime, but had made no arrests when this issue went to press.

Waqar Hasan, 46
Dallas, Texas
Waqar Hasan was sick of lawlessness. In the 1980s, political chaos has turned his home town of Karachi, Pakistan, into an explosive mess.

Hasan's father and one of his brothers were kidnapped by political extremists looking to raise money. And then, in 1989, Hasan found himself at the end of a pistol, held to his temple as he was robbed of his car and cash.

Later that year, Hasan brought his wife and four daughters to the United States. "He thought it was better to live in a civilized society," his brother-in-law, Kahid Ghani, told the Intelligence Report.

The night of Sept. 15, while manning his ramshackle grocery and check-cashing store in a blue-collar neighborhood called Pleasant Grove, Hasan found himself looking down the barrel of another gun. This time it fired, shooting him in the head.

Police said Hasan's shooter may have coaxed him out from behind a bullet-proof cashier's area by requesting a sandwich. They have investigated the murder as a possible hate crime, but without success.

"No motive, no robber, no suspects," read a police report describing Hasan's killing.

His brother-in-law offered a different summary of the crime: "The civilized society gave him death."

Hasan is remembered as an eminently civilized man, quiet but personable. In New Jersey, where he lived before moving to Texas, an elderly next-door neighbor said Hasan used to cut her grass, shovel her snow and drive to the store for her.

"He always told me, 'You have already done your share,' " Florence Bialkowski told the Home News Tribune.

Along with losing a husband and father, Hasan's wife and four daughters may have lost their best chance for permanent residency in the United States because they were listed as applicants under Waqar Hasan's name.

Once a person dies, his petition dies with him.

Willie Houston, 38
Nashville, Tenn.
Life was looking good for Willie Houston. A bus driver for special-needs customers of Metro Transit in Nashville, Tenn., the 38-year-old celebrated his engagement to Nedra Jones on July 29 with a midnight cruise down the Mississippi.

After the boat docked, Jones asked Houston to hold her purse while she went to the rest room. Then a friend, who is blind, asked Houston to accompany him to the men's room.

A purse on one arm and a male friend on the other, Houston ran into Lewis Maynard Davidson III, a 25-year-old with a lengthy arrest record. Davidson allegedly taunted Houston with anti-gay slurs, then followed him out of the rest room.

Jones told a local newspaper that Houston remained calm, refusing to rise to the bait. "Not one harsh word did he say to him," she said, "because that's not Willie."

But Davidson kept harassing Houston as they walked toward the parking lot. According to Jones, Davidson said, "I've got something for you in my car" and went off across the lot.

As Jones and Houston said goodbye to their blind friend and another friend, Jones said they heard Davidson's voice again: "Now what you got to say?" he said, pointing a gun at Houston.

Houston held up his hands, according to Jones, and tried to reason with his assailant. "Man, we had a good time, and I'm just ready to go home and go to bed." Davidson allegedly fired anyway, hitting Houston in the chest.

Two months after the shooting, Davidson was allegedly caught with crack cocaine in Ohio. At press time, Tennessee officials were awaiting his extradition.

Under Tennessee's hate-crime law, sentences can be enhanced when a crime is committed because of the victim's real or perceived sexual identity. Prosecutors were "considering" whether to invoke the law.

Adel Karas, 48
San Gabriel, Calif.
Adel Karas was tolerance personified. For 20 years, the big, silver-haired Egyptian was a neighborhood fixture in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley.

His International Market lived up to its name, selling tortillas, African drums and Turkish pipes alongside the Budweiser and beach balls.

Karas greeted customers in Spanish, Arabic and English. "Por que ha venido, flaco?" he'd always kid one rail-thin Mexican-American. "Why have you come, skinny?"

On Sept. 15, the grocer was chuckling his way through another 12-hour Saturday when two young men burst into the International Market and shot him.

Karas crawled outside, where he was found bleeding on the sidewalk. He died soon after being taken to a hospital.

At first, police suspected a botched robbery. But all the cash had apparently been left in the register. Both the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the FBI have investigated Karas' slaying as a hate crime. No one had been arrested at press time.

Apparently, Karas' attackers mistook Karas for a Muslim and targeted him for revenge just four days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In fact, the 48-year-old father of three was a Coptic Orthodox Christian who came to the United States to escape persecution by the Muslim majority in Cairo. It didn't take Karas long to adjust to his new surroundings.

"Before we knew it," said his nephew, Basem Wasef, "Adel was like the town mayor. People often stopped by the market just to say hello or socialize. He had a knack for bringing out the best in people and revealing a ray of light on the darkest of days."

Anthony Martilotto, 39
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
On July 26, a maid at the Radisson Bahia Mar Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., discovered Anthony Martilotto's dead body. He had been strangled to death early that morning.

Nineteen days later, clear across the country in San Francisco, 43-year-old Kevin Begoon woke up in the middle of the night and fought off the strangler who has since admitted to killing Martilotto: 19-year-old Adam Ezerski.

Ezerski, a baby-faced drifter who established a prodigious criminal record as a juvenile and young adult, had fled across the country in Martilotto's red Mustang. Fearing that he was on an anti-gay killing spree, authorities launched a multi-state manhunt.

They caught up with Ezerski on Aug. 17 in Reno, Nev., on the opening night of that city's Gay Pride Festival. Extradited to Florida, Ezerski was charged with first-degree murder and robbery — but not with a hate crime.

According to Fort Lauderdale Police Det. John Curio, "It appeared that Adam was a hustler who targeted the victim after meeting him at a local bar, but did not target him out of any hate for gays."

Ezerski's brother, Aaron Smith, disputed this version of events, telling reporters that his brother is a homophobic woman-chaser.

"He's not a homosexual," Smith said, adding that Ezerski had once threatened a gay acquaintance with a gun. Besides, he said, Ezerski was engaged to his girlfriend of two years. "He's always chasing girls," said Smith. By all accounts, Martilotto's life in Weston, Fla., was calmer than that of his alleged killer.

"He was a homebody," said his older brother, Roland. "He wasn't one to frequent the bars and stuff, which made it really weird that this happened. I guess it was just a bad place at a bad time."

A native New Yorker, Martilotto moved to Florida with his mother in the mid-'90s, leaving his longtime home in Staten Island. Back home, he'd worked in the stock market.

After heading south, he became a live-in helper for elderly folks. The job was a natural for Anthony, who his brother says "always thought of the other person."

"He always thought everybody was his friend, too. That's probably why he got in trouble, being good-natured and trusting people like that. Growing up in New York, most people learn to be a different way, you know, but not Anthony."

Fred C. Martinez Jr., 16
Cortez, Colo.
On the night of June 16, Fred Martinez Jr. left his family's trailer in Cortez, Colo., headed for a local carnival. As usual, the Navajo teenager was wearing makeup and carrying a handbag.

Martinez called himself "nadleehi," or "two-spirited," because he believed he had the mind and spirit of a female inside his lanky frame.

Five days later, children playing in a trash-strewn canyon happened upon Martinez' decomposing remains. He had apparently been robbed of $40, beaten in the head with a rock, thrown in the canyon and left to die.

Eighteen-year-old Shaun Murphy of nearby Farmington, N.M., was arrested on July 4.

A friend of Murphy's told police he heard Murphy brag that he had "bug-smashed a joto" — a derogatory Spanish term for a gay man. Murphy, who had a record of violence as a juvenile, faces first- and second-degree murder charges.

Because Colorado's bias laws do not cover sexual orientation, Murphy could not be charged with a hate crime.

Activists cited Martinez' murder as an example of why such coverage is needed, prompting Cortez Police Chief Roy Lane to complain that people were "trying to turn this whole thing into a big political issue."

For Martinez' mother, Pauline Mitchell, the issue is mostly personal. She told the Intelligence Report the family embraced her youngest son's "two-spirited" nature, even if others in the community did not. "He has five brothers, and they all accept him. I sure accept him, too."

Since Martinez went missing, she said, things have been awfully subdued around the trailer.

"The others are shy," she said with a sigh. "He was a blabbermouth. Why would someone so fun to be around have to go? He would make anybody laugh, joke around a lot. Now it's so quiet around here. His nieces and nephews miss him. They say, 'Where's F.C.?' It's like he's going to walk back in and cheer everybody up again."

Abdullah Nimer, 53
Los Angeles, Calif.
Abdullah Nimer was used to having doors slammed in his face. After all, the 53-year-old Palestinian immigrant sold clothes door-to-door.

But after Sept. 11, a tough job got tougher. Traversing his sales territory in South Central Los Angeles, Nimer's family said, he began to hear threats and anti-Arab slurs.

Nimer, who lived in Bell, Calif., tried to handle the trash-talking the same way he dealt with the slamming doors: Ignore it and keep moving.

But on the afternoon of Oct. 3, he was stopped in his tracks by a group of young men who confronted and shot him. Nimer died the next day.

The FBI is investigating Nimer's murder as a hate crime. The Los Angeles Police Department is not. The motive for his murder was robbery, they said, though detectives found that nothing was stolen from Nimer. At press time, no arrests had been made.

Nimer's murder appeared to be part of a huge wave of xenophobic hate crimes in the Los Angeles area that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In just the first four weeks of the backlash, the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments reported 167 hate crimes against people perceived to be Muslims — and that number did not include the crime against Nimer.

Nimer left behind a wife and six children. They believe the killing was hate-inspired — though they'd prefer to think otherwise.

"To be honest, I hope it is not," Nimer's son, Islam, told a local paper. "Because if it is, none of us is safe. Already, my mother wants to move from our house. Whenever I see a car behind me, I wonder who is following me."

Lorenzo "Loni Kai" Okaruru, 28
Aloha, Ore.
Loni Okaruru wanted to get home. A biological male born 28 years before in the South Pacific island of Saipan, Okaruru had started living as a woman years before she migrated to Aloha, a small town near Portland, Ore.

Around 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, she was walking down a rural highway after visiting a 7-Eleven store where she often hung out. She flagged down a passing police officer to ask for a ride home — but the officer thought Okaruru, who spoke with a heavy accent, wanted to go to Cornelius, Ore., rather than Cornelius Pass Road.

He offered to call a cab or friends to pick her up. Okaruru declined, saying a cab cost too much. Besides, she didn't want to bother anyone at such a late hour.

Shortly before 8 a.m., Okaruru's dead body was found in an overgrown field along a nearby stretch of road. She had been savagely beaten, a telltale sign of a likely hate crime, then dumped in the field.

"Fingertips cut off, face smashed in — whoever did it, there certainly was a violent rage," said Greg Miles, Okaruru's uncle.

Police agreed, counting Okaruru's murder as the first official hate crime in Washington County history. At press time, however, they had not arrested any suspects.

Back on Saipan, Miles said, Okaruru's gender identity was no big deal.

"It's commonly accepted in the Pacific Islands that there are people who are born with the wrong body. Within the family, certainly, there was no problem. He was loved by everybody, especially the children." They called Okaruru "Auntie Larry."

Not everyone in Oregon was so understanding. Relatives say that Okaruru had been beaten up at least twice in Portland and Washington County.

Sheriff's Det. Mike O'Connell speculated that Okaruru died in a version of what had recently happened to her on a date with a local man. "He touched her through her clothes, found out she was a man, and kicked her out of his car right there.

"I think that is what happened here, but it didn't end quite so nicely."

Vasudev Patel, 49
Mesquite, Texas
When Vasudev Patel was found dead on the floor of his Shell station and convenience store in a suburb of Dallas, his surveillance camera told part of the story.

It showed an armed man walking into the store on Oct. 4 and ordering Patel to "give me the money now." It showed the owner being shot while trying to reach for a weapon, then falling to the floor.

It showed the robber attempting to open the cash register, then commanding the fallen Patel to open it "or I'll blow your brains out." It showed the robber running out of the store, empty-handed.

The next afternoon, police used the video evidence to arrest 32-year-old Mark Anthony Stroman, a two-time convicted felon.

Stroman admitted to shooting Patel. That much seemed clear. But the rest of the story — Stroman's motive — couldn't be captured by the camera.

Stroman first said his motive was robbery, saying he had tried to shoot Patel in the shoulder but missed. Then he changed his story, telling investigators that he killed Patel out of revenge: His sister, he claimed, had died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

Police said they hadn't determined the truth of that claim, but Stroman was charged with capital murder.

Stroman's robbery motive was further called into question when police charged him with another shooting that happened two weeks before Patel was killed.

Just after noon on Sept. 21, Stroman allegedly strode into a Texaco station in Dallas flashing a double-barrel, .45-caliber Derringer. The clerk, a native of Bangladesh, opened the cash register as soon as he saw the gunman.

Stroman fired anyway, hitting the side of the attendant's face and blinding him in one eye. Despite the open cash drawer, police said Stroman left without taking anything.

Despite Stroman's conflicting confessions, one thing was clear. If he came to Patel's store looking for revenge on Arabs or Muslims, he chose the wrong target: Patel was a native of India.

Thung Phetakoune, 62
Newmarket, N.H.
"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
Aventura, Fla.
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."

Balbir Singh Sodhi, 49
Mesa, Ariz.
Balbir Sodhi never found a flag.

The gregarious Sikh, who immigrated from the troubled Punjab region of India in 1988, ran a Chevron station in Mesa, Ariz., a sprawling suburb of Phoenix.

After Sept. 11, he shopped around for a flag he could fly to show his support for the United States. With the Stars and Stripes in record demand, he still hadn't turned one up on Saturday, Sept. 15.

That afternoon, as Sodhi tended to the new landscaping in front of his station, he was shot and killed with a .38-caliber gun fired from a passing pickup truck.

The truck's driver, 42-year-old Frank Roque, did not stop there. Down the road from Singh's station, Roque allegedly shot (but did not kill) a Lebanese-American gas-station clerk, then opened fire on the home of a family with Afghan roots.

After the shooting spree, he repaired to a nearby sports bar, announcing loudly, "They're investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street."

Arrested later that afternoon at his home, Roque allegedly told officers he was seeking to revenge the terrorist assaults. "I stand for America all the way," he bellowed, complaining that he was being taken in while "those terrorists run wild."

Roque was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and three counts of drive-by shooting. Mesa police Sgt. Mike Goulet said hate-crime charges were being considered.

Six hours before he was killed, Sodhi telephoned his mother, father, wife and children back in Punjab to assure them that he was safe, far away from the destruction in New York.

He didn't tell them what he'd told some of his customers — that he'd had at least two threats of violence since Sept. 11.

Within hours of his killing, customers began to bring flowers, candles and notes to the Chevron station, creating a street-corner memorial to Sodhi. "I have lived here all my life," read one message. "I hope I can be as American as you."

Robert Spencer, 51
Okahumpka, Fla.
David Leo Troutman was done with talking. It was time to act. Around lunchtime on Jan. 8, the retired truck driver and livestock dealer pulled up to the Island Food Store in Okahumpka, Fla., in his pickup. A shotgun lay across his lap.

He waited until he saw a black person. When Robert Spencer walked out of the store, sub and soda in hand, Troutman jumped out of the pickup, aimed at Spencer's back and fired at least two shots.

As Spencer's son and co-worker, Roderick, rushed out to help his dying father, Troutman peeled off. He stopped at another convenience store a mile down the road, put a small handgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger as customers went in and out, oblivious.

Troutman had apparently never met Spencer, a supervisor for Florida Recycling Services who lived in Leesburg, Fla. But for years, Troutman had aired racist views about black people to friends, family members — and even bare acquaintances.

His vocal complaints about black people had started fights at his old American Legion post in Indiana. Not long before Jan. 8, he had promised family members that he would "take out" as many black people as he could before he died.

Spencer's eight grieving children see irony in all this: If anyone could have changed Troutman's mind about black people, they believe it was the man who became his random target.

Their daddy charmed the socks off everyone he met, daughter Priscilla Pounds told the Intelligence Report.

On trips to visit Spencer's kinfolk in Alabama, "He would walk in any store along the way, white or black, and people would take to him right away. He would go to the person who's not smiling, say, 'There's got to be a reason why you're not smiling, and I'll make you smile.' "

"He had a blinder on him," said his other daughter, Beulah Spencer. "He didn't see color. He just saw people."

Jerry Stamper, 24
Las Vegas, Nev.
When the alarm clock woke Allen Welborn for work at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 30, his boyfriend wasn't there. Late the night before, Welborn had gone to bed while Jerry Stamper headed for a nearby club where he was friends with the bartender and the deejay.

Welborn wasn't too concerned that Stamper, his partner of five years, hadn't made it home yet. "This is Las Vegas," he told the Intelligence Report. "A lot of nights don't end till 11:30 the next morning."

Besides, Welborn said that living with Stamper — a native of Battle Creek, Mich., who moved to Las Vegas as a teenager — had mellowed him out. "Unlike me, Jerry was laid back. Nothing bothered him. His favorite saying was, 'No worries.' "

When Monday rolled around, and still no sign of Stamper, Welborn had plenty of worries — especially when someone from his homeowners' association called him at work and asked, "Does Jerry Stamper live with you?"

"Yes," Welborn said.

"Then you need to come home."

Welborn was met by a homicide detective who told him what she knew: Stamper had been found at around 1 a.m. on Saturday morning, dead on a sidewalk near the apartment complex.

He had been savagely beaten, and had died from severe trauma to the back of his head — most likely from a baseball bat or a metal two-by-four.

According to Welborn, the detective "also said it was possible that his head had been slammed into the concrete over and over."

Stamper's wallet was found nearby, empty except for a work card. His pockets had been turned inside-out. Lying nearby was a pack of cigarettes and an uneaten hot dog. Police said Stamper had last been seen alive at 12:20, in a neighborhood 7-Eleven.

At press time, no arrests had been made in the case, which Las Vegas police chalked up to a robbery. Welborn said he and Stamper's father asked a police detective whether she considered it a hate crime. "She said no, it was not brutal enough."

Terrianne Summers, 51
Jacksonville, Fla.
On Jan. 6, 2001, Terrianne Summers made a splash in The Florida Times-Union. Summers was pictured leading a protest at Winn-Dixie headquarters in Jacksonville. The company had fired a truck driver who told his supervisor that he occasionally cross-dressed during off hours.

Times-Union readers saw the 51-year-old Summers holding high a poster that shouted in big block letters: "TRANSGENDER PEOPLE HAVE RIGHTS TOO."

By December, the truck driver's lawsuit against Winn-Dixie hadn't been resolved. Summers was organizing another January protest when she was shot to death in the driveway of her Jacksonville home.

At first, Jacksonville police tagged it as a robbery attempt. Apparently, though, none of Summers' possessions had been taken or even disturbed. Even so, Lt. Rick Graham said the murder was not being investigated as a hate crime. No arrests had been made at press time.

Gay and transgender activists called for a hate-crime investigation, both because of Summers' high profile as an activist and because transgender people are frequent targets of hate crimes — not to mention the fact that Summers' killing looked more like an assassination than some brutal chance encounter.

One thing seems certain: If another transgender person had died the way she did, Summers would not have kept quiet.

Summers lived most of her life as a man named Gary, and only began to identify openly as a woman after a 22-year stint in the Navy.

But it didn't take her long to become what one friend calls "an activist's activist," heading up Jacksonville's transgender coalition and inspiring others to be open about their lives.

"She showed tremendous courage to be out and active," said her friend Jessica Archer, especially "in a part of the state where transgender people are generally afraid of being visible."

Friends and family members, including Summers' partner and two children, are left to wonder whether that visibility might have cost Summers her life.

Eric Valdez, 19
Grand Junction, Colo.
On July 6, Judith Richmond telephoned her fiancé, 19-year-old Sjon Elmgreen, from a Grand Junction grocery store. According to police reports, Richmond told Elmgreen that she and her friend, Sarah Santarelli, were being bothered by a couple of "beaners" — a derogatory term for Hispanics.

The call set in motion a confrontation that would soon leave another 19-year-old, Eric Valdez, dead.

Santarelli later told police that she thought Richmond was overreacting to Valdez and his friend, who "were not being rude or threatening but were just flirting."

According to Santarelli, Elmgreen arrived soon after Richmond's call with his roommate — and a fixed-blade, seven-inch knife. They found Valdez, now with two friends, down the street.

Santarelli said she watched Elmgreen approach Valdez and start yelling, calling him a "fucking Spic and a fucking beaner." She said Elmgreen walked away, then circled back when he heard one of the Hispanic teenagers say something.

That's apparently when a fight broke out that left Valdez on the ground, bleeding from the chest. After turning himself in hours later, Elmgreen told police that after stabbing Valdez he rolled him over, removed the knife and fled on foot.

Witnesses said Elmgreen hollered more racial epithets as he stood over Valdez's bleeding body.

Less than an hour after the stabbing, Valdez was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Elmgreen was scheduled to stand trial this spring for second-degree murder and "ethnic intimidation" — Colorado's term for a hate crime. If he is convicted, the bias charge could add as many as six years to Elmgreen's sentence.

Juana Vega, 36
Milwaukee, Wis.
On the night of Nov. 10, Juana Vega had good news for her best friend, Carmen Murguia. "I'm out," she told Murguia. "I'm finally free."

Murguia knew what she meant: Vega had broken off her turbulent relationship with Melodia Parrilla. In the process, she believed she had gotten free of her girlfriend's 25-year-old brother, Pablo, who had allegedly been threatening Vega for months.

Friends and family members said Pablo Parrilla had taunted Vega with anti-gay epithets since she began dating his sister in the summer of 2000.

"He always said that he'd never let someone turn his sister gay," said Vega's brother, Marco. "He couldn't accept that."

In September, Vega had called the police, reporting that Parrilla fired a gunshot at her outside the apartment she and Melodia Parrilla were sharing.

Pablo Parrilla was on parole at the time after being convicted of beating his sister, and was wanted for parole violations because he had not completed a required Batterers Anonymous course.

Only hours after she told Murguia she was "free," Vega apparently ended up in a fight with Melodia Parrilla at their apartment. When things "turned physical," according to police reports, Parrilla left for her mother's house. Vega followed.

She was in the yard outside the Parrillas' home when Pablo came out to confront her. He allegedly shot her five times, but did not stop there.

According to a police report, "He stated he was still mad ... so after firing the shots he started to hit Juana with the gun and kick her all over the head and body."

Hours later, a passerby saw Vega's dead body under a tree in the Parrillas' yard and called police.

Pablo Parrilla was charged with first-degree murder. But even though Wisconsin is one of 23 states with hate-crime laws including sexual orientation, he faced no bias charges as the Intelligence Report went to press.

That has incensed gay activists and officials across the country, including U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who have called for Milwaukee police to fully investigate the hate-crime angle.

Martin Ornelas-Quintero, executive director of the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization, joined others in protesting the lack of a hate-crime charge.

Vega's death, he said, was no "drive-by shooting," but "a vicious murder where the message of hate comes through."