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SLDN MEMORANDUM

To: Supporters and Friends
From: Michelle M. Benecke, C. Dixon Osburn
Co-Executive Directors
Date: July 14, 1999
Re: Alleged Anti-Gay Murder of Soldier at Fort Campbell

We have some tragic news to report.

During the early morning hours of July 5th, 1999 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, PFC Barry Winchell was allegedly bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by one or more fellow soldiers in his barracks. Serious concerns have been raised that this alleged murder may have been an anti-gay hate crime. We know that at least one soldier is in custody and has been charged with premeditated murder.

We were notified of the alleged murder last Friday and immediately sent Kathi Westcott, an SLDN staff attorney, and Gary Norcross, a veteran and an SLDN volunteer consultant, to the Fort Campbell area to begin a preliminary investigation. We spoke to more than fifty community members and soldiers in Clarksville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee, and distributed 3,000 fliers asking anyone with information about the alleged murder to contact us. We would especially like to thank the Lesbian and Gay Coalition for Justice in Nashville for their assistance.

It is too early to draw any conclusions about the circumstances of the alleged murder of PFC Winchell. Based on our preliminary findings, however, it appears that concerns about the possibility of an anti-gay hate crime are well-founded and deserve full investigation.

The Armyís handling of the case to date raises serious concerns about how the Army will investigate the alleged murder. The Army has downplayed the murder as a "physical altercation" and has stated that there is no evidence that the alleged murder was an anti-gay hate crime.

We are particularly concerned to press the Army to address the significant obstacles that exist for individuals who may have information relevant to this crime, but who are reluctant to cooperate with Army investigators out of fear for their safety and the possibility of losing their careers under "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue." We are seeking assurances from the Army that the murder investigation will not be used to ferret out potential gay soldiers, and that any gay soldiers who come to the Armyís attention as the result of legitimate investigative efforts be protected from discharge or prosecution based on their sexual orientation or relationships.

We have asked for meetings with both the Secretary of the Army and the Commanding General at Fort Campbell to address our concerns and press for a full investigation into the alleged murder.

While we have not yet concluded that this is an anti-gay hate crime, we have previously documented in our annual reports on "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue" the continued rise in reports of anti-gay harassment we have received. In our most recent report issued in March, we documented a 120% increase in reports of anti-gay harassment, including verbal gay-bashing and death threats. Regardless of the outcome in this case, we will continue to press the Pentagon to distribute guidance on anti-gay harassment that has been sitting on the shelf since 1997 and train service members on the guidance.

Our thoughts and prayers are with PFC Winchellís family and loved ones. We will keep you apprised of further developments.

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