The Plain Dealer
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February 29, 1996 Thursday, FINAL / ALL
SECTION: ARTS & LIVING; Pg. 6E
LENGTH: 786 words
HEADLINE: VICTIM KNOWS IMPACT OF ANTI-LESBIAN VIOLENCE
BYLINE: By CLINT O'CONNOR; PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
Little did Stephen Carr realize as he loaded eight shells into his .22-caliber rifle that his brief firing frenzy would not produce two dead women, as he had hoped, but one lifelong activist.
Claudia Brenner's body caught five of those bullets. She lived. Her companion, Rebecca Wight, was hit only twice, but those wounds were fatal.
The eighth bullet missed.
It was May 1988. The two had been hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Carr stalked them and shot them. He is serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison without possibility of parole.
When the police first came to Brenner for her story, she told them everything in amazing detail. But she failed to mention that she and Wight were lesbians. It was a reflex action. Brenner deduced, even in the confused aftermath of the shooting, that you don't tell authority figures you are a lesbian because they will mess with you.
Soon, though, she told them everything. That she and Wight were lovers, that they were, in fact, making out when the bullets first ripped into their bodies. Carr was enraged by two women having sex.
"He saw that we were lesbians," she told friends who came to comfort her in the hospital. "I didn't yet know this act of brutality had a name. The term anti-gay violence was not in my vocabulary. But I knew what had happened to me was not random."
Brenner shares her story in "Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence" (Firebrand, $12.95), the book she co-wrote with Hannah Ashley. Brenner will be in the Cleveland area this weekend, signing copies of her book and speaking at a forum Sunday night.
"Most people think it only happens to men, late at night, outside gay bars," said Brenner, 39, from her home in Ithaca, N.Y., where she is a full-time architect and part-time activist. "But those are not the only types of people and that is not the only place it happens."
Violence against gay and lesbian people is being increasingly charted by organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C., and the Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project in New York. Studies by those groups showed 2,031 incidents nationwide in 1993 and 2,064 in 1994.
Locally, violence against gays and lesbians is followed by the Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center on the near West Side. The center provides assistance to victims and police education services.
The center's Maryann Finegan Project, which tracked anti-gay violence, ran out of funding in 1994. It had reported 54 incidents in 1992 and 110 in 1993.
"Gays and lesbians are being pummeled by hatred," Brenner said. She believes the spate of anti-homosexual legislation and referendums in Oregon, Utah and other states has fueled resentment.
"It creates a climate where people who might be inclined toward violence feel free to hate," she said.
Brenner said she is making her "own little contribution" by traveling the nation to share her tale.
"Telling a story that is horrible makes people stop and think, and gain perspective on what is really important in life," she said.
Brenner was deeply affected by her loss, the pain of her wounds and the notoriety of changing from unknown lesbian to banner-bearer.
Part of her mission is to convince police departments that gays and lesbians are not all alike, that stereotypes don't work.
"Many gays and lesbians are afraid to report hate crimes to the police because they fear they will be revictimized by the system," said Tracey Conaty, field
organizer for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Brenner, apparently, was one of the exceptions.
"I wasn't revictimized by the system," she said. "In my case, it was good police work. As much justice as the system can dole out, it was doled out. [The killer] was caught, prosecuted and imprisoned."
When she speaks at gay- and lesbian-sponsored forums or academic gatherings, Brenner emphasizes her positive experience with police and the judicial system, hoping people will emulate it.
Of course, there was also the terror.
Physically, she is doing well, with only occasional pain derived from her wounds.
"The mental and emotional recovery is more long-term and it goes in cycles," she said. "I still grapple with it periodically. Not even daily now, or weekly. But I still have to deal with it."
For your information Claudia Brenner will speak at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Cleveland Hillel Foundation at Case Western Reserve University, 11291 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. A discussion moderated by former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher will follow. The forum, sponsored by Cleveland's Gay-Lesbian-Bi Pride Organization, is free and open to the public. For full information, call 371-9714.
GRAPHIC: PHOTO BY: No Credit Claudia Brenner, right, shares the story of the shooting attack on her and Rebecca Wight, left, in her book,
LOAD-DATE: March 1, 1996
Copyright 1995 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe
November 16, 1995, Thursday, City Edition
SECTION: LIVING; Pg. 65
LENGTH: 2451 words
HEADLINE: Killed over a kiss;
The two women were lovers, shot by a man who hated to see women embrace. One lived to tell the story.
BYLINE: By Alisa Valdes, Globe Staff
DATELINE: FREEVILLE, N.Y.
She's dead now. Murdered. 28. But when Rebecca Wight walked, the world watched. Graceful. Strong. She lifted weights. Business major. Clear, dark skin. Confident - you could tell by the angle of her shoulders. Funny. Smiled easily, straight white teeth. No wonder Claudia Brenner fell in love with her.
In those days, the final days of loving Rebecca, Brenner, 32, mixed her food with nutritional yeast and lived here in the rolling greens and yellows of upstate New York, a far cry from the noisy Manhattan of her upbringing. In a way Rebecca was like Ithaca - wild, powerful, beautiful, free. In a way, she was perfect.
In other words, Rebecca was nothing - nothing - like . . . him.
Stephen Roy Carr. Tall like an ostrich. Sunken eyes. Chain smoker. Pale. Knit cap in the middle of summer. Sweatpants. Loner. Drifter. Loser. Hated when men kissed men, he told the police later. Hated when women kissed women. He watched Rebecca and Claudia kissing in the woods. They thought they were alone. Minutes later, 82 feet from their tent, hidden in the bushes, he shot them. Eight times.
Incredibly, Brenner survived.
Seven years later, she has written a book about it called "Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence," with the help of a friend, Hannah Ashley. And at 6:30 tonight she will talk at the Cambridge Public Library about her book, her survival, her activism and her recovery.
It's not as if there was a huge lesbian community in Blacksburg, Va. Especially at Virginia Tech, where Brenner was studying to become an architect.
There were a few lesbians. Hung around together. Community.
There were the straight women who hung around with them, too: feminists, organizing the Women's Week activities. Then there were the straight women who were curious, and the "straight" women who were actually gay, peeking out of the closet.
Rebecca Wight fell somewhere between the latter two categories. Lived with her boyfriend, but looked at Brenner a certain way. Brenner knew better than to get involved with a curious straight woman who had a boyfriend. That was masochism.
But there was no denying Wight's charm. The way she held her head back and to the side. The way her walking shorts fit over her leotards. Brenner was a Manhattan-born Jew. Wight came from a Puerto Rican mother and an Iranian-American father. She was gorgeous, and to Brenner, exotic.
So when Wight put her hand on Brenner's thigh during a breakfast conversation one morning and looked right into her soul, it shook her. Hard. She had to tell her. She had to. She took a deep breath. She did. Wight felt the same way. Left her man. In the book, Brenner remembers this as when Wight gave her permission to fall in love with her. And she did.
It would last almost two years, until the shooting. Almost two years despite constant geographical separation. They went to concerts, restaurants. But epecially they liked to be outdoors, camping and hiking.
Wight was the kind of camper who laughed at the idea of cooking fires. Only amateur campers built fires. Real campers used little camping stoves run on butane or batteries. Next to Wight, Brenner felt like a klutz outdoors. But she remembers it being wonderful to hike and camp with Wight - just for the chance to watch her walking up ahead, perfect like that.
That's what she was thinking on May 13, 1988. Friday the 13th. Morning. In the forest, the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. They had camped overnight after parking their cars on Dead Woman Hollow trail. Coincidence. Beautiful trail. Woman died of a snakebite there once. Got named for her.
No one else was there. Quiet. Peaceful. They had kissed, two people in love in the isolation of the woods. They had waited. Careful. They thought they were alone.
Morning. Wight had walked to the public restroom at a campground. Thought no one was there. So she was nude except for her shoes. Free. Camping. Summer. Hair messy from sleeping. Sound of birds. Sun in the trees. And then Stephen Roy Carr like a bad dream.
Got a cigarette? he asked her. I'm so embarrassed, she said. We thought we were alone. We're camping. No, no cigarette. He stared. Wight hurried back to the tent. We have to put clothes on, she said. There's someone here. A creepy man.
They dressed and decided to head to another campground. Packed up. Walked past Stephen Roy Carr, sitting like the devil in the forest. See you later, Wight said. She was polite like that. See you later, he said back. Wight didn't mean it. Stephen Roy Carr did.
He saw them later, when they stopped to look at their map. They kissed then. He was behind them. A .22-caliber rifle over his shoulders. Casual. You lost already? he asked. Nasty. Sneering. They looked at him. No, are you? Brenner wondered what he could be hunting. It wasn't hunting season. He laughed to himself. He walked away. Wight and Brenner thought he was gone.
Wight and Brenner found a place to set up camp. Made dinner. Talked about moss and if you could find a spot big enough to sleep on. Silly conversations. Fun, Brenner remembers. They were having fun. Ate dinner. Bugs were biting them. Late afternoon, maybe 5:30. They kissed. Rolled around. Began making love.
That's when Brenner's arm exploded. In the next 30 seconds she took the shots: Arm Neck Neck Face Head. If her mouth hadn't been closed, her molars wouldn't have shattered the bullet in her face. If her head had been turned just centimeters in either direction, her jugular would have opened.
Wight took two. Back. Head. Still had energy to tell Brenner to get down, to run for cover behind a tree, to stop the bleeding.
Behind the tree, bleeding. Talking to each other. He came back. They knew. It was him. What are we going to do? Wight trying to get up but she couldn't. She fell. Brenner watching. Brenner thinking she had to go get help. Wight saying no, don't go. Wight looking at her like she wanted Brenner to die with her, in her arms. Brenner insisting she had to go. Wight going blind, trying to put her own shoes on so she can go, too. Too weak. Brenner watching Wight's eyes roll up into her head, her lips turn pale. Wight saying it hurts, her back hurts. Brenner afraid of bleeding to death. Wight leaning against the tree, telling Brenner to take her wallet, in the pocket of her shirt. You'll need money. Brenner putting on a sweater, gathering a map and flashlight, afraid he was still there, waiting to finish her off. Brenner terrified, in shock, leaving her love to die alone against the tree. Walking. Leaving a trail of blood.
Four miles. Three hours. Staying on the road. He's probably in the woods. Choking on bits of bullet. White towel around her neck turned red. Dripping.
One car passed. Waving a flashlight. They looked at her and kept driving.
Second car, two kids, boys, maybe 16. Chewing tobacco. They stopped. Put her in the front seat. Offered her their spitting cup for all the blood she was pushing out of her mouth. Raced her to Shippensburg, to the police station. Put the radio on for her. Talked to her. Tried not to act horrified.
Sitting in the station, saying over and over the name Rebecca Wight, saying over and over, she's on the Rocky Knob Trail off the Appalachian trail.
Saying over and over, she's hurt, she needs help. Not yet registering she'd been shot five times. Some pain. More would come later. Thinking she'd go with them, walk back, find Rebecca.
Ambulance to Chambersburg Hospital. Helicopter to Hershey Trauma Center. Operation. Drugs. Thinking the whole time of Wight. Wondering. Falling asleep, reluctant. Waking to the news. Rebecca Wight was murdered. The police found her that night. Stayed with her body all night, until morning, when they could photograph the evidence. In the pictures, her eyes were open. The irises were there, brown. In the pictures, she was dead.
Stephen Roy Carr thought they were both dead. That's why he left 25 rounds of ammunition there, in the spot where the police found his cap with the cat hair on it. Hair from the cat at the house where he'd stayed the week before, the house to which he'd fled after he shot the women, and told his nephew, I did something very very bad.
Stephen Roy Carr wrapped his rifle in plastic so it wouldn't get damaged, and he hid it. He left a trail of cigarette butts and a Coke can, and then he jumped into a washtub and floated downstream to an Amish village. A family there took him in, believed his lies. He lived with them for 10 days, until an Amish man secretly watching television saw the composite drawing on the news. He called the police. That man is here in our village, said the Amish man.
They caught Stephen Roy Carr. Arrested him on a warrant from Florida for grand larceny. Thank God you're taking me out of here, he told the police. I hate the way the men kiss the men here. Later they told him his hat and ammunition were found at a murder scene. He said his gun was stolen. One of the women lived, they told him. She identified you. He said he was hunting and thought they were deer. He was an unreliable witness. He had a criminal record. He was a liar. He killed Rebecca Wight.
The courts agreed. His public defender tried to say that Wight and Brenner had made him do it, taunted him, put on a show with their lesbian antics. Said that in jail he'd been raped by another inmate. Had been raped as a child. Was disturbed.
On the stand Brenner was calm and reliable and proud of her love, a healthy, innocent love. She was full of bullets. Her girlfriend was dead. Even the worst homophobe couldn't deny the guilt, the coldblooded, calculated guilt of Stephen Roy Carr. Life without parole. In Pennsylvania that means something. He's there now, Greterford Prison. Listed S. Carr. Prisoner. Forever.
"There are a lot of things that made us lucky with the criminal justice system," Brenner says. She is speaking in her home, a big yellow farmhouse in rural Freeville, 12 miles outside of Ithaca. A dog outside barks and wags her tail. Six cats roam inside and out, one curled by the big wood stove, another rubbing Brenner's shins. She sits on a couch. It's a house full of couches and books and magazines - The Nation, The Jerusalem Report - and cassettes like "People Are a Rainbow" for her 14-month-old child, Reuben (named for Rebecca), whom she had through artificial insemination. Brenner wears black jeans, black sneakers, a big wool sweater. Her eyes are turquoise.
The justice system "often doesn't work for gays and lesbians. But for me it helped that I was white, that I was from an upper-middle-class family, that my family cared about me, that I was educated, that I was not your stereotypical image."
She doesn't say what "stereotypical image" means, but it is clear. Brenner is petite. She is pretty. At the time of the shooting, her hair was long. That's what she means.
"But," she adds, "it's a sad statement that when the system actually works for a lesbian or gay person, or a black person or a minority, that we have to say we feel lucky. Why should we feel lucky for getting simple justice?"
Brenner has a regular life now. She is an architect, with her own practice in Ithaca. She has a new love, Dana Jacobsen, of San Francisco. They met at a women's music festival in Michigan. Jacobsen is a sound engineer. They communicate every day on the Internet. They visit once a month.
"We're totally in love," Brenner says. "I think it's important that people know that, that I've been able to fall in love again, that I have a normal life. Sometimes people survive these stant, and it shows in her speaking. Years of therapy, books, love from friends have all helped. She is comfortable talking about the shooting. If you apologize for asking about it, she stares and then says gently: "There's not enough space in our lives to talk about violence." She smiles. "We've made some progress, but I think there's this general politeness in not talking about painful stuff. We all need to talk more than we do. People worry it will be hard for me, but it's been seven years. When I speak publicly people want to talk about their own experiences, and we all end up feeling better."
There is not a day when Brenner does not think about the shooting. She keeps a picture of Wight in her room. The inside of her mouth is puckered in spots with scar tissue. There's a line down the side of her neck from the operation. Last year her cheek turned black where a bullet bit came to the surface.
"It's like a metaphor for my healing," she says. "Little by little working its way out. I'm not suffering anymore, but I'm very aware every day of what happened to me."
People tell her she is strong. Strong to have survived, physically. Strong to have gone on to become an activist, to have written a book. But she doesn't like this title, "strong woman." She is a survivor.
Brenner has been talking since it happened. She's been on talk shows, in magazines, on the radio. She wrote the book. Once a month she travels somewhere to talk.
"The hatred of gays and lesbians is all about gender roles," she says. "I've thought a lot about this. . . . When you realize the magnitude of our belief in gender roles as a society it is staggering and upsetting.
"I felt the speaking was having such a strong impact dispelling the myth that anti-gay violence is some guys coming out of a bar and a car full of guys comes by and beats the crap out of them. Anti-gay violence is much bigger than anyone admits. It affects all sorts of people. And my story seems to have a huge impact on all people because it is so horrific and it doesn't leave room for a person to stay uncommitted. When you hear the story - two women, unarmed, innocent, shot - people don't stay neutral. They go to a place of compassion."
Thousands a year are victims of anti-gay crimes
In 1994, 2,739 people reported being victims of anti-gay or anti-lesbian hate crimes in the United States. Of those, 30 percent were women.
In the year before, 1993, 26 percent of all reported anti-gay or anti-lesbian hate crimes were perpetrated against women.
Of all the anti-gay and anti-lesbian crimes reported in 1994, 40 percent involved no physical injury. Twenty-seven percent resulted in minor injuries; 16 percent in outpatient treatment; 16 percent in hospitalization. Three percent resulted in death.
In Massachusetts last year, 73 women reported being victims of anti-lesbian crime, ranging from constant harassment by neighbors to actual physical attacks.
Numbers gathered from the report "Anti-Gay/Lesbian Violence in 1994, Massachusetts and the United States: Local & National Trends, Analysis and Incident Summaries."
GRAPHIC: PHOTO, 1. Claudia Brenner (right) has written a book about the shooting that injured her and killed her lover, Rebecca Wight (left), on
the Appalachian trail.(COLOR) 2. AP FILE PHOTO / Brenner speaks at Pennsylvania State House on anti-gay crime. 3. AP PHOTO / Stephen Roy Carr
after his arrest for shooting Brenner and Wight.
LOAD-DATE: November 17, 1995
View Related Topics
JUNE 18, 1995, SUNDAY, SUNDAY EDITION
SECTION: SUNDAY REVIEW; Pg. 8; BOOKS IN BRIEF
LENGTH: 1709 words
HEADLINE: BOOKS IN BRIEF
BYLINE: David Wiegand, Patricia Holt
One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence
By Claudia Brenner with Hannah Ashley
Firebrand; 212 pages; $ 12.95
''We looked back a lot. I looked back a lot. But I didn't feel like we were being followed. We never, in a million years . . . it never occurred to me that someone would do something that creepy. People don't just follow you and shoot you. It doesn't make any sense.''
So writes architect Brenner about an idyllic camping trip on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania in 1988. There Brenner and her lover, Rebecca Wight, were indeed followed by a man they had met the day before and who watched them at their campsite. When they were partially disrobed, he shot them both.
In suspenseful yet restrained prose, Brenner explains how she forced herself to leave Wight, who lay dying from three bullet wounds, to walk four miles for help, nearly hemorrhaging from bullet wounds in her neck, head, face and arm. Describing her recovery and the trial of the killer, Stephen Roy Carr, later sentenced to life in prison without parole, Brenner carefully and astutely interprets the shooting as a hate crime -- and a product of homophobia.
Carr, ''a social misfit,'' clearly believed ''that as a white heterosexual man, he was higher up than a lesbian,'' and, ironically, the trial reflects a similar stigma. While the district attorney insists the crime ''was no different than if it had been he and his wife lying by that stream,'' the defense tries to blame the women for ''intentionally teas(ing) my client.''
Copyright 1995 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
June 17, 1995, Saturday, Final Edition
NAME: Claudia Brenner
SECTION: STYLE; Pg. C01
LENGTH: 1609 words
HEADLINE: The Target That Shot Back; Victim Takes Aim at Anti-Gay Violence
BYLINE: Megan Garvey, Washington Post Staff Writer
They parked at Dead Woman's Hollow. The sun was shining on a stretch of the Appalachian Trail in western Pennsylvania where the two women had gone to hike and camp and be alone. This day in May 1988 was pleasant in an uneventful, unspectacular way -- the type of nice day anyone could have in the spring out in the wilderness walking with the person he loves. The leaves were new on the trees, the stream they camped by ran pure and cold, keeping company with a patch of soft moss large enough to stretch out on.
Later, after the stillness of the forest was broken by gunfire and screams and death, Claudia Brenner wondered how the birds could still be singing.
She wondered why the green tarp where she had been lying with Rebecca Wight was now stained with blood. She listened to the chatter of the birds and wondered if they saw what had happened to her there by the stream, wondered what they were saying.
Claudia Brenner is supposed to be dead. Five bullets punctured her body that day. Eight shots in total shattered the afternoon. The blasts seemed to come out of nowhere, leaving Brenner and her girlfriend wounded and bloody when only seconds before they had been making love. Wight, 29, died alone in the Pennsylvania woods. Brenner lived to tell their story.
Claudia Brenner's voice silences the crowd gathered on Thursday night at a local fund-raiser for Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV).
"The first bullet," begins Brenner, reading from the pages of her book, "Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence," written with Hannah Ashley and just released by Firebrand Books. "When the first bullet hit me my arm exploded."
Brenner's words chill the room and are part of the reason she has become one of the most prominent activists against anti-gay violence in the country. In
Washington to speak at the Gay Pride Week event, Brenner goes beyond telling her terrible story and hits at what made it acceptable to her attacker to hunt and kill lesbians. To the crowd gathered to listen, the murders of 11 gay men in the area in 1994 gave Brenner's words urgency.
"I never thought that you could be killed for being gay," says Brenner. "I knew about taunts and harassment and that's what I thought of when someone said anti-gay. I never thought it happened to women. I never thought it was a matter of life and death.
"If it is all right to tell jokes about gays, if it is all right to yell slurs at us on the street, at some point it becomes all right for the Stephen Roy Carrs of the world to hunt us down and shoot us," says Brenner to the hushed crowd. "Rebecca and I were playing by the rules. We were in the middle of the woods.
We weren't flaunting it and we still weren't safe. Playing by the rules won't keep us safe."
In an interview Brenner says that for her the issue isn't even about homosexuality specifically. "People are so afraid of difference that they see people who are different as subhuman," she says. "And sometimes they kill."
Brenner's world changed in the moments it took Carr, a then-21-year-old drifter and mountain man who was convicted of the murder, to load and fire his bolt-action rifle eight times. Carr hit his targets with all but the last bullet. When the shooting was over, bullets had pierced Brenner's arm and neck, grazed the top of her head and shattered her cheek. Wight was hit twice, fatally struck in the back by the seventh shot. Her liver exploded. Carr left both women for dead.
"I didn't know I was shot," says Brenner, her eyes on the floor as she describes the attack. "But Rebecca knew. Rebecca knew we were being shot."
In the quiet after the gunman left, Brenner wrapped a towel around her bleeding neck, pulled a sweat shirt over her head and tried to coax Wight into walking with her for help.
"I knew I was hurt but I think my brain, out of self-protection, wouldn't let me think about how bad it was. I knew Rebecca was hurt really bad," she says. Brenner walked four miles from the campsite to a road where she flagged down help. She wanted to go back for Wight; instead the young boys in the car that she stumbled upon took her to the nearest fire station.
Seven years after being a victim of a headline-making crime, Brenner says she has healed but will always carry the physical and mental scars of the violence. Sometimes she wears a necklace that belonged to Wight, a silver pendant dangling from a black cord.
Brenner lives in Ithaca, N.Y., in a home with friends who spent night after night at her bedside in those first weeks after the crime. An architect whose studies were interrupted by the nightmare in the woods, Brenner recently got her license. Not speaking up about the crime, she says, was never an option. Brenner, 38, has fine features, brown hair sprinkled with gray and clear blue eyes that she shares with her son, Reuben, born nine months ago and named for Rebecca. On the floor of a friend's Northwest D.C. apartment, Brenner cradles her son, turning the pages of a musical book to keep him occupied, taking a moment to gather her thoughts before answering each question.
"The man who killed someone I loved and almost killed me had no other information about us other than the fact that we were lesbians. I almost died because I am a lesbian," she explains. "Any murder is wrong, is unacceptable, but it seems like we should be able to do more about people being killed because they are gay."
Brenner did not know the man who hunted her in the wilderness of Pennsylvania. She and Wight had spoken briefly to their assailant twice before the attack -- first when Wight encountered him at a trail shelter, and a second time on the hiking path as the couple made their way to another campsite. Carr asked if they were lost. Neither woman thought much of the encounters. Brenner believed that they were alone at a secluded spot in the woods when she and Wight settled in by the stream. But what she didn't know was that Carr had stalked them, taking aim and firing from a spot where he could not be seen.
In her book, Brenner praises the system for treating her fairly at every juncture. Still, she says that many factors made her case more clear-cut and easier for people to sympathize with than many equally serious instances of anti-gay violence. She is white and middle-class. Her parents came to her side immediately. Her friends were professionals -- all of which gave her credibility in the eyes of the officers on her case.
Even for Brenner, who had been comfortable being open as a lesbian for years before the attack, telling the police that she was making love with Wight when the shooting began came only after several days of thought and advice from a lawyer.
"I find it fascinating that my self-protection was that deep that in the middle of all this pain and sheer terror I still knew not to say I was a lesbian. I was protecting myself because someone had tried to kill me and I didn't know what anyone else's reaction would be to me and Rebecca being lovers," says Brenner.
For a week after the attack, Carr, whom police had identified as the man Brenner described to an FBI artist, evaded the law. A fugitive already from grand larceny charges in Florida when he shot the women, Carr hid this time in a Mennonite community. Mennonites do not read the newspaper or watch television, so the family giving him shelter had no idea he was a murderer. They asked only that he work on the farm and attend church. One community member who was not a strict observer of the Mennonite laws recognized Carr from media releases and informed the pastor.
"That's my kind of sinner," says Brenner with a smile.
Brenner's honesty about her lesbianism proved crucial to earning the investigators' trust and to prosecuting Carr. Police never believed Carr's original story that he had been shooting at a deer and missed. Later, when he described to police his disgust at watching the women having sex, police knew they could place him at the scene the moment the crime occurred.
Though Brenner's straightforwardness about her sexuality sealed the case against Carr and gives her hope that the system can work for homosexuals, her fight was not without its low moments. The scope of anti-gay sentiment became clear at a discovery hearing before the trial began. Carr's attorney tried to introduce evidence of the women's sexual relationship to build a defense known as "homosexual panic."
Carr, his lawyer said, experienced uncontrollable rage when he saw the women making love. Their lesbianism was provocation. The judge in the case disallowed introduction of the women's relationship in court, forcing the defense to cut a deal and accept a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole for Carr. The experience made Brenner sympathetic to other victims of anti-gay violence who often choose not to report the crime.
"There is a tendency to blame the victim in anti-gay crimes," says Brenner, as she arranges pots and pans for son Reuben to beat on. "The more people identify with Rebecca and me the more they realize that it could be their sister or brother or daughter or friend."
Brenner continues to speak out with the help of organizations like GLOV across the country. Does she ever wonder what Wight would think of her activism, which neither of them, when they were together, could possibly have imagined? "I think Rebecca would be really proud of me," she says, breaking into a smile as wide as her face, the same smile she has in the picture with Wight that appears on the dedication page of her book. "Rebecca would be really proud."
GRAPHIC: Photo; Photo, larry morris , Rebecca Wight, left, and Claudia Brenner. They "were playing by the rules," Brenner says, ". . . and we
still weren't safe." "I never thought that you could be killed for being gay," says Claudia Brenner, wounded in an attack that killed her lover.
LOAD-DATE: June 17, 1995
Copyright 1988 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
May 25, 1988, Wednesday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A6; AROUND THE NATION
LENGTH: 86 words
HEADLINE: Suspect in Trail Shootings Captured
BYLINE: From News Services and Staff Reports
DATELINE: HARRISBURG, Pa.
Authorities captured "mountain man" Stephen Roy Carr, 28, and charged him with the murder last Friday of hiker Rebecca Wight, 29, of
Blacksburg, Va., and the wounding of her companion, Claudia Brenner, 31, of Ithaca, N.Y., on the Appalachian Trail.
A gunman opened fire on the women at their campsite in Michaux State Forest, authorities said. Brenner, shot in the face, hiked four miles to a road for
help. It was the first murder on the trail since 1981 when a couple was killed near Pearisburg, Va.
Copyright 1989 The National Journal, Inc.
The National Journal
June 17, 1989
SECTION: FOCUSES; Legal; Vol. 21, No. 24; Pg. 1604
LENGTH: 1038 words
HEADLINE: Hate Crimes
BYLINE: W. JOHN MOORE
On May 13, 1988, Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were hiking and camping in Pennsylvania's Michaux State Forest, a favorite place for the two outdoor enthusiasts to relax. They were eating oranges at their campsite on Rocky Knob Trail when Wight was killed and Brenner was wounded by at least seven rifle shots. Last October, drifter and ex-convict Stephen Roy Carr was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said Carr stalked the women in the woods. According to news accounts of the trial and statements by Brenner, Carr killed
Wight because she was a lesbian.
Wight's death, you might think, will be added to the grim statistics on victims of sexual prejudice. But there is no such record. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of her story is that nobody in the federal government keeps track of the growing number of hate crimes.
In a country where demographers can track the number of cookies consumed in Cleveland, nobody knows how many gays or lesbians were harassed beaten or killed last year because of their sexual orientation. Nor does the Justice Department compile accurate and current statistics on violent acts against Asians, blacks, Hispanics, Jews or women.
On Capitol Hill, some Members of Congress consider the lack of data ludicrous. Legislation has been introduced every year since 1984 to address this problem. The bills would direct the Attorney General to collect data about crimes motivated by prejudice based on ethnicity, race, religion or sexual orientation. The legislation would help answer key questions about hate crimes, such as whether each is an isolated incident or whether some are part of coordinated hate campaigns, and whether violence is targeted at certain groups. And the data would indicate whether racism and other kinds of biases are resurgent in this country. "Right now, we rely on spotty, anecdotal information," Rep. Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., a co-sponsor of the bill, said early this year.
This kind of data-gathering legislation would appear to have few negatives. All it does is ask the Justice Department to do some numbers crunching. Indeed, legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., was passed by the House last year, 383-29. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a similar bill, but it never reached the Senate floor. It stalled after Sen. Jesse A. Helms, R-N.C., opposed the inclusion of antigay hate crimes in the data-gathering bill.
This year, the Conyers bill (HR 1048) has already been approved by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a similar bill (S 419) introduced by Paul Simon, D-Ill., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah. More than 20 state attorneys general have supported the bill. The Justice Department has supported only the data-gathering concept, not the legislation.
The rancid truth is that the numbers of all kinds of hate crimes are probably growing. A Justice Department study estimates that hate crimes tripled in the past seven years. As many as 3,000 incidents occurred from 1981-86, according to the North Carolina-based Center for Democratic Renewal. The
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) reported that anti-Semitic incidents -- from synagogue vandalism to physical violence -- jumped 12 per cent in 1987, reversing a five-year downward trend.
At a June 7 press conference, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Anti-Violence Project issued its fourth annual report on antigay violence. It showed the number of such incidents up to 7,248, the highest total recorded so far. The compilation showed increases of 9 per cent in reported homicides, 4 per cent in reported cases of physical assaults, 32 per cent in reported cases of police abuse and 73 per cent in bomb threats.
Kevin Berrill, director of the Anti-Violence Project, noted that there might be a whiff of good news in this statistical slime. The reported increases may be the result of better and more conscientious reporting of hate crimes at state and local levels, he said. But at a minimum, Berrill stressed, the study shows that antigay violence "continues to be alarmingly widespread."
Violence against most groups has soared. In a 1987 report, "The Hate Movement Today: A Chronicle of Violence and Disarray," the ADL said more criminal violence was committed by extremists over the past three years than over the prior two decades. A New York City Police Department study indicated that nearly 1 in 4 gay men and nearly 1 in 10 lesbians had been attacked at least once in their lives.
There is also strong evidence that hate crimes are up sharply on college campuses, where tolerance of different life-styles and and nationalities might be most expected. Instead, the swastika has reappeared at some universities. At the University of Kansas, 400 "Fagbuster" T-shirts sold out in an hour, according to a 1987 analysis of campus hate groups. The Anti-Violence Project study found that 19 per cent of all antigay and antilesbian incidents last year occurred on college campuses. At least half of all people arrested for hate crimes are teenagers and young adults up to age 25, a 1987 study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice reported.
Most hate crimes that have garnered headlines are individual acts of violence. But gay and lesbian groups in 17 communities reported activity by antigay hate groups, primarily the neo-Nazi skinhead organizations.
Almost all of this information has been painstakingly compiled by interested groups, which have endorsed the legislation to require the Justice Department to collect the data. Already, nine states have enacted similar laws.
But Helms promises a roadblock in the Senate. He has introduced amendments that would transform the bill by adding language stating that homosexuality is a threat to the American family and that state sodomy statutes should be enforced. The Helms amendment might kill the bill. And that would leave what Berrill called a "a snapshot of the problem, a picture which is not complete, yet is vivid enough to dismay and outrage any person of conscience."
GRAPHIC: Picture, no caption, © M. Moss
COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Stephen Roy CARR, Appellant
No. 336 Harrisburg, 1989
Superior Court of Pennsylvania
398 Pa. Super. 306; 406 Pa. Super. 659; 580 A.2d 1362; 1990 Pa. Super. LEXIS 2875
March 8, 1990, Argued
September 24, 1990, Filed
Appeal Denied May 8, 1991.
Appeal from Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division, of Adams County, No. CC-385-88.
DISPOSITION: The judgment of sentence is affirmed.
COUNSEL: Michael George, Gettysburg, for appellant.
Roy A. Keffer, Asst. Dist. Atty., Gettysburg, for Com., appellee.
JUDGES: Wieand, Tamilia and Popovich, JJ.
OPINION: [*308] [***1363] In this appeal from a sentence of life imprisonment imposed for murder of the first degree, the principal issue is whether the trial court erred when it disallowed evidence of the defendant's psychosexual history to show the likelihood of a killing in the heat of passion aroused by defendant's observation of two women engaged in homosexual lovemaking.
On May 13, 1988, Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were hiking along the Appalachian Trail in Adams County, when they found an appropriate campsite and stopped for the night. There, they were resting and engaging in lesbian lovemaking when Claudia Brenner was shot in the right arm. After a short pause, additional shots were fired, as a result of which Brenner was struck four additional times in and about her face, neck and head. Rebecca Wight ran for cover behind a tree and was shot in the head and back. Brenner attempted to help Wight, who was unable to walk, but was unable to rouse her. Brenner thereupon went for help, but by the time help arrived, Wight was dead. Suspicion subsequently focused on Stephen Roy Carr. He was arrested and taken into custody on a fugitive warrant from the State of Florida and made statements which incriminated [*309] himself in the shooting. He was subsequently tried non-jury before the Honorable Oscar Spicer and found guilty of murder in the first degree.
Carr defended at trial on grounds, inter alia, that he had shot Brenner and Wight in the heat of passion caused by the serious provocation of their nude homosexual love-making. In support of this defense and to show the existence of passion, Carr offered to show a history of constant rejection [***1364] by women, including his mother who may have been involved in a lesbian relationship, sexual abuse while in prison in Florida, inability to hold a job, and retreat to the mountains to avoid further rejection. This was relevant, he contended, to show that he was impassioned when provoked by the "show" put on by the women, including their nakedness, their hugging and kissing and their oral sex. The trial court refused to allow evidence of Carr's psychosexual history, finding it irrelevant.
The crime of voluntary manslaughter is defined by the Pennsylvania Crimes Code as follows:
A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation. . . .18 Pa.C.S. ß 2503(a). In Commonwealth v. Copeland, 381 Pa.Super. 382, 554 A.2d 54 (1988), the Court said:
The passion which will reduce an unlawful killing to voluntary manslaughter must be caused by legally adequate provocation. Commonwealth v. Flax, 331 Pa. 145, 155, 200 A. 632, 637 (1938). The test for determining the existence of legally adequate provocation is an objective test. Commonwealth v. Miller 473 Pa. 398, 399, 374 A.2d 1273, 1274 (1977); Commonwealth v. Stasko, 471 Pa. 373, 384, 370 A.2d 350, 356 (1977); Commonwealth v. McCusker, 448 Pa. 382, 389, 292 A.2d 286, 289 (1972).Id. 381 Pa.Super. at 389, 554 A.2d at 57.
In making the objective determination as to what constitutes sufficient provocation reliance may be placed upon [*310] the cumulative impact of a series of related events. The ultimate test for adequate provocation remains whether a reasonable man, confronted with this series of events, became impassioned to the extent that his mind was "incapable of cool reflection."Commonwealth v. McCusker, 448 Pa. 382, 389-390, 292 A.2d 286, 290 (1972). See also: Commonwealth v. Voytko, 349 Pa.Super. 320, 326, 503 A.2d 20, 23 (1986). "If and when sufficient provocation is found, then the focus of inquiry shifts to the defendant's response to that provocation[.]" Commonwealth v. Whitfield, 475 Pa. 297, 304, 380 A.2d 362, 366 (1977) (emphasis in original).
If sufficient provocation exists, the fact finder must also determine whether the defendant actually acted in the heat of passion when he committed the homicide and thus whether the provocation led directly to the killing or whether there was sufficient "cooling" period so that a reasonable man would have regained his capacity to reflect.Commonwealth v. Rivers, 383 Pa.Super. 409, 417, 557 A.2d 5, 9 (1989), citing Commonwealth v. Galloway, 336 Pa.Super. 225, 485 A.2d 776 (1984).
The sight of naked women engaged in lesbian lovemaking is not adequate provocation to reduce an unlawful killing from murder to voluntary manslaughter. It is not an event which is sufficient to cause a reasonable person to become so impassioned as to be incapable of cool reflection. A reasonable person would simply have discontinued his observation and left the scene; he would not kill the lovers. See and compare: State v. Volk, 421 N.W.2d 360 (Minn.App.1988) (defendant's revulsion from deceased's homosexual advances not sufficient legal provocation to elicit heat of passion response; person of ordinary self-control under like circumstances would have left scene); State v. Latiolais, 453 So.2d 1266 (La.App.1984) (defendant's excessive hostility toward and fear of homosexuals does not render victim touching defendant's leg sufficient legal provocation); State v. Ritchey, 223 Kan. 99, 573 P.2d 973 (1977) (deceased's [*311] vocal and physical homosexual advances, which were nonviolent and nonthreatening, were insufficient provocation). Whatever a person's views about homosexuality, the law does not condone or excuse the killing of homosexuals any more than it condones the killing of heterosexuals. Similarly, it does not recognize homosexual activity between two persons as legal provocation sufficient to reduce an unlawful killing of one or both of [***1365] the actors by a third person from murder to voluntary manslaughter.
A trial court must make an initial determination whether sufficient evidence has been presented of serious provocation. See: Commonwealth v. Carter, 502 Pa. 433, 466 A.2d 1328 (1983) (where evidence does not support finding of manslaughter, court need not submit issue to jury); Commonwealth v. Dews, 429 Pa. 555, 239 A.2d 382 (1968) (where no evidence of manslaughter, it is proper to refuse to submit manslaughter issue to jury). In the instant case, the judge was both court and jury. Appellant was permitted to show the nature of the activities in which his victims were engaged when he came upon them in the woods. "In a provocation defense, the actions of the victim establishing provocation are relevant. Those are the victim's actions on the [day] in question because the provocation must lead directly to the killing." Commonwealth v. Rivers, supra 383 Pa.Super. at 418, 557 A.2d at 9 (emphasis in original). After it had been determined that these activities were inadequate to provoke a heat of passion response, however, appellant's rejection by women and his mother's sexual preference were irrelevant. Appellant's history of misfortunes are not events which are in any way related to the events which he claims provoked him on May 13, 1988. An accused cannot, by recalling some past injury or insult, establish a foundation for a manslaughter verdict. Commonwealth v. Dews, supra 429 Pa. at 559, 239 A.2d at 385. See also: Commonwealth v. Gelfi, 282 Pa. 434, 128 A. 77 (1925); Commonwealth v. Russogulo, 263 Pa. 93, 106 A. 180 (1919). The trial court did not err when it excluded evidence of appellant's psychosexual history.
[*312] Appellant also contends that his waiver of the right to remain silent following arrest on a fugitive warrant was involuntary because he did not know that he was to be questioned about the shooting of Brenner and Wight. Therefore, he argues, the trial court erred when it refused to suppress his incriminatory statements.
In Commonwealth v. Richman, 458 Pa. 167, 320 A.2d 351 (1974), [the Supreme] Court held that a valid waiver of Miranda rights requires that the suspect have an awareness of the general nature of the transaction giving rise to the investigation. The rationale of this holding was that it is only when such knowledge is possessed by a suspect that he can be said to understand the consequences of yielding the right to counsel. "It is a far different thing to forego a lawyer where a traffic offense is involved than to waive counsel where first degree murder is at stake." Commonwealth v. Collins, 436 Pa. 114, 121, 259 A.2d 160, 163 (1969) (plurality opinion). It is clear from Richman, however, that the suspect need not have knowledge of the "technicalities" of the criminal offense involved; rather, it is necessary only that he be aware of the "transaction" involved. Commonwealth v. Richman, 458 Pa. at 175, 320 A.2d at 355; see also Commonwealth v. Jones, 460 Pa. 223, 331 A.2d 658 (1975); Commonwealth v. McKinney, 453 Pa. 10, 306 A.2d 305 (1973); Commonwealth v. McIntyre, 451 Pa. 42, 301 A.2d 832 (1973); Commonwealth v. Boykin, 450 Pa. 25, 298 A.2d 258 (1972); Commonwealth v. Swint, 450 Pa. 54, 296 A.2d 777 (1972). Neither does the Richman holding establish a "fifth Miranda warning"; that is, there is no prophylactic requirement that the interrogating officers affirmatively provide information to the suspect as to the crime under investigation. Commonwealth v. Jacobs, 445 Pa. 364, 284 A.2d 717 (1971); Commonwealth v. Cooper, 444 Pa. 122, 297 A.2d 108 (1971), both cited in Richman. Where, however, the defendant has not been furnished with such information and a pre-trial challenge concerning the validity of a confession [*313] is made on this ground, the Commonwealth must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knew of the occasion for the interrogation. Cf. Miranda v. Arizona, supra, 384 U.S.  at 475, 86 S.Ct. 1602 [at 1628], 16 L.Ed.2d  at 724 [(1966)]. This burden may sometimes be satisfied by the establishment of circumstances attending the interrogation, [***1366] such as the prior statements of the suspect, see Commonwealth v. Cooper, supra, or the fact that interrogation follows hard upon the criminal episode and there is no circumstance lending ambiguity to the direction and purpose of the questioning.Commonwealth v. Dixon, 475 Pa. 17, 22-23, 379 A.2d 553, 556 (1977) (footnotes omitted). See also: Commonwealth v. Moss, 518 Pa. 337, 347 n. 1, 543 A.2d 514, 519 n. 1 (1988); Commonwealth v. Travaglia, 502 Pa. 474, 467 A.2d 288 (1983); Commonwealth v. Harris, 359 Pa.Super. 581, 519 A.2d 505 (1986); Commonwealth v. Gotto, 306 Pa.Super. 434, 452 A.2d 803 (1982); Commonwealth v. Reaves, 279 Pa.Super. 581, 421 A.2d 351 (1980); Commonwealth v. Hart, 266 Pa.Super. 190, 403 A.2d 608 (1979).
In Commonwealth v. Moss, supra, however, the Supreme Court observed:
We did not hold in Dixon, and we have never held, that a suspect must be informed of each and every crime under investigation. On the contrary, we have consistently held that the Commonwealth, in meeting its burden of proving a waiver was knowing and intelligent, may establish the circumstances attending the interrogation and the lack of ambiguity as to the questioning's direction and purpose.Id. 518 Pa. at 347 n. 1, 543 A.2d at 519 n. 1.
In the instant case, the evidence demonstrated that there had been no ambiguity about the direction and purpose of the interrogation. After appellant had formally waived his Miranda rights, he was asked to account for his whereabouts after he left Florida in December, 1986. He described living in the woods and, when asked how he had survived, said that he had fished, trapped and hunted with [*314] his .22 caliber rifle. He volunteered that his rifle had been stolen, along with other belongings, on the afternoon of May 13 while he was napping along the trail. When asked if he had seen anyone on the trail, Carr replied that he had seen two girls kissing near his shelter on the morning of May 13. He said that he spoke with one of them, after which he and the girls went their separate ways. When police told Carr that the items which he had described as missing were found at the scene of a murder, he began crying and said "Why does this happen to me." Police then told appellant that he had been seen at John Golden's house on the morning of May 14 and that there had been talk of the killing in the woods. Carr denied that there had been talk of the two girls being shot in the woods. He said that he first had learned of the shooting on the six o'clock news later that evening. When police told Carr that one of the girls had lived through the attack and reported seeing him along the trail on the afternoon of May 13, carrying his rifle across his shoulders, Carr again began crying and stated, "If I tell you what really happened, you'll put me away for a long time. I should have run." When asked 3 if the shooting was an accident, Carr replied that he thought he was shooting at a deer until he heard screams.
Carr also led police to the location where he had hid his rifle. Upon return to the barracks, Carr was arrested for murder. After arraignment and while being transported to Adams County, Carr told police that he had known they were looking for him because he had heard that they were showing his picture to people on May 17.
It is patently clear, therefore, that appellant knew he was a suspect in the shooting on May 13, 1988 and that he was being questioned about it. After being arrested, the interrogation was almost exclusively about the shooting and not about his fugitive status in Florida. "To find under these circumstances that [Carr] was unaware of the general nature of the transaction giving rise to his questioning would be tantamount to treating as fact that which is patently hypothesis and fantasy." Commonwealth v. Travaglia, supra 502 Pa. at 487, 467 A.2d at 294.
[*315] Finally, appellant argues that the trial court erred in refusing him an in camera review of the Commonwealth's file to determine whether the District Attorney 4 had complied with his discovery requests. However, "[a]n in camera inspection of the Commonwealth's file is not required unless [***1367] there is reason to believe that evidence favorable to the defense will be revealed." Commonwealth v. Colson, 507 Pa. 440, 490 A.2d 811 (1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1140, 106 S.Ct. 2245, 90 L.Ed.2d 692 (1986). See also: Commonwealth v. Hassine, 340 Pa.Super. 318, 490 A.2d 438 (1985). In the instant case, appellant did not show and, indeed, did not allege that the police file contained exculpatory material. Moreover, he concedes on appeal that "the defense is unable to indicate what items should have further been disclosed." Since appellant is unaware of any exculpatory information which has been withheld from him and has failed to show that he was prejudiced in any way, we conclude that appellant was not deprived of adequate pretrial discovery. n1
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n1 The trial court did not err when it refused to allow pretrial discovery pertaining to other physical or sexual interaction between Brenner and Wight.
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The judgment of sentence is affirmed.