“If you can walk into a 7-11 and rob a 7-11 for 15, 20 bucks, get your face on videotape, have somebody that’s gonna call the police; or if you can go to a park, rob somebody that’s out in the dark, come away with a hell of a lot more–because of the fact that they’re a homosexual and they don’t want people to know it, they’re not gonna go report it to the police. Who you gonna go rob? Where you’re gonna get in the least amount of trouble.”
Donald Aldrich sought out gay men to rob and harass. He knew that many gay men in Texas lived double lives in order to hide their homosexuality from an adverse environment and took advantage of their fears of being exposed. For Aldrich, homosexuals were both a source of easy money and a way to release his hostilities; he claims to have been sexually molested by a homosexual cousin at the age of nine: “Some of the fear that I had instilled in on me — if I can throw that back on somebody, they’re gonna think twice about goin’ back out there again. ‘Cause the next person they meet might be shovin’ a shotgun down their throat. The next person they meet might actually pull the trigger.”
Aldrich, along with two accomplices, abducted Nicholas West from Bergfeld Park in Tyler, Texas where gay men hung out. They took him to a gravel pit outside of town and subjected him to verbal harassment, a fist fight, and finally, nine fatal gun shots.
“If I beat the death penalty part of it, they can still hang me with capital murder, stick me in prison for the rest of my life–I’d rather them take me over there and shoot me in the head first. My life’s been fucked up since I was a small kid. I’ve wanted to die several times since I was a small kid. I’m not scared of death. If there’s nothing after you die, I’m not going to know it because I’m dead. If there is an afterlife, it’s got to be a hell of a lot better than this place.”
Aldrich was executed on October 12, 2004 by lethal injection at Huntsville Unit, Huntsville, Texas.
“Back then it was the going thing, ‘Hey man, let’s go over here and rob a homosexual.’ You know what I’m saying? We had it embedded in our head that they were weak. And we could take theirs and get away with it and they won’t put up a fight.”
Corey Burley, a self-described homeboy, grew up in the projects of Dallas. As a youth, he realized that he didn’t like being picked on by bullies and the only way to protect himself was to become a bully himself. Money wasn’t the only motive for robbing homosexuals, there was also the “fun” of it: “Everybody’s got money and stuff like that, so, it really wasn’t for the money at this time. It was just, more or less, just to do it.”
On October 26, 1991, Burley and two friends stalked Thanh Nguyen as he entered Reverchon Park with his companion, Hugh Calloway, to find a picnic table to eat their hamburgers. Burley claims he shot Nguyen after being prodded to do so by his friend. Nguyen was an immigrant from Vietnam who came to America to escape the war.
“I had a heart that pumped nitro. When I was growing up I wanted to be bad. I didn’t want to be no cowards and stuff like that. So I built myself up, pumped myself up to be bad. You know what I’m sayin’? Well, look where it’s got me. I’m bad, but I’m locked up. I’m doing time, a lot of time. Where that badness come in? Ain’t nobody bad up in here. Let them tell it. Let us tell it for that matter. Yeah, we all bad–in one way or another.”
As of 2003, Burley is serving his sentence at the Hodge Facility in Rusk, Texas. He is eligible for parole in 2026.
“The anger and you know, the thought of me even getting touched by a man, it made me furious, you know–I got furious.
“Raymond Childs met “Lou” after midnight at Hugh Grant Circle, an area in Bronx, New York where male hustlers were known to cruise. “Lou” was a prominent lawyer in New York City who was married to a woman. Childs agreed to go to a Giants football game with “Lou”, but instead they went to “Lou’s” Connecticut home and then to a motel.
At the motel, Childs claims that his penis was touched by “Lou”. This action spurred Childs to stab “Lou” 27 times with a knife he had brought along for protection. Childs then took “Lou’s” wallet and emptied his front pockets. Childs spent the next few days purchasing various items with “Lou’s” credit cards before being arrested three days after the murder.
“I knew something was wrong, showing me everything, I mean, he didn’t really know me. I thought the Giants game and that’s it, “Call you later.” Maybe we’d stay closer instead of going so far–have an understanding. But he didn’t do that, he wasn’t patient. He just rushed, you know, I rushed in takin’ action. But, what could I say? You gotta’ defend yourself, I guess.
“As of 2003, Childs is serving his sentence at Sing Sing Prison, New York. He is eligible for parole in 2017.
“When I was seven years old I was molested by a friend of the family. I guess subconsciously I was feeling like a fag for him doing that to me. To this day I can’t stand for someone to say, ‘Well, you’re a faggot.’ Or you know, play any kind of homosexual games, you know, “Suck this.” I don’t like that. I’d rather beat the shit out of ’em.”
On the night of his crime, William Cross was having drinks on the rooftop with W. Lemke, a man who lived in the same hotel. Cross had heard rumors that Lemke was a homosexual. Cross claims Lemke grabbed his testicles (while holding a knife) which caused him to flashback to being raped as a child. He then went into a rage and blacked out. Cross doesn’t remember stabbing his victim seven times.
“It’s like this rage just came from nowhere. And it was fear. Fear of getting hurt, you know, getting raped. It really wasn’t fear of getting cut. I was more in fear of him hurting me sexually than physically, I guess. That’s when I just lost control of myself. The rage just came out and I killed him.”
Cross was convicted at a bench trial without a jury. The prosecutor argued for Cross to be convicted for first degree murder since there were no eye witnesses to his claims of self-defense against Lemke’s sexual advances — a defense commonly referred to as “homosexual panic.” The prosecutor also cited that some of Lemke’s personal property was missing and his pockets were turned inside out. Cross denied any attempts of robbery.
As of 2003, Cross is serving his sentence at Dixon Correctional Institute, Illinois. His projected parole date is July 13, 2006. For up-to-date information on Cross’s prison term, log onto: www.idoc.state.il.us.
(Sgt.) Kenneth Jr. French
“I don’t believe there’s anywhere in our Constitution that gives anybody the right to be accepted by anybody else. When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, people automatically assumed that they had a right to many different things. Women, blacks, now carrying into gays. They feel that they have a right to be accepted? Who–who do they need to accept them?”
Kenneth Jr. French was an army sergeant for the 18th Airborne Corps stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina. French’s profile differs from the other men featured in Licensed To Kill: he didn’t specifically murder a homosexual, instead, his crime was integral to his feelings towards them.
It was 1993 and President Clinton announced his plans to lift the ban on gays and lesbians in the military. French and fellow soldiers were against it: “If you’re introducing a minority group that’s frowned upon and looked upon as being weak, and your commander’s saying it’s fine for him to be here, guys are saying, ‘Guess the military isn’t really as tough and bad as we thought it was.’ Everybody’s wanting acceptance. It’s a one-world system — global unity. Well, at what cost? Our military going down the drain?”
French claims he blanked out on the evening of August 6, 1993 after drinking a fifth of whiskey while watching Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven, which concludes with a violent massacre at a saloon. The results of his ambush on Luigi’s, a local family restaurant, included four deaths and seven wounded victims. Witnesses testified that French shouted “I’ll show you Clinton about letting gays into the army” while shooting patrons randomly.
“I’m not gonna apologize for the views that I hold towards gays or homosexuals but…I don’t think that I went in with the intention of just singling out any certain group of people, be it black, white, male, female, gay, or straight. I was just angry at the world I guess at the time, I don’t know. I was just taking out aggression and hatred on whoever was there.”
As of 2003, French is serving his sentence at the Polk Youth Institution in Butner, North Carolina.
“I believe I was a very confused person. I wasn’t exactly black or white, I’m half. And I don’t belong specifically to the black community or the white community. I have gay preferences, but I don’t really embrace the gay community — I’m religiously hostile to them. There’s a lot of contradictions there.”
Jay Johnson was raised in a strict, religious household; his father was vice-president of enrollment at Bethel College & Seminary and often spoke openly against homosexuality. Johnson had high political aspirations — he was also gay.
Conflicted about his sexual orientation, Johnson resorted to murder as a means to exorcise desires that the Christian church around him labeled immoral and worthy of death: “I was disgusted with what I was doing. And quite frankly, I just thought to myself, ‘If I shut these places [parks where gay men met each other] down, my temptation to do that would be less.’ I would think to myself, ‘This is a constructive, moral thing to be doing.’ And I certainly didn’t just come up with that idea. I watched The 700 Club sometimes with Pat Robertson — they’re constantly talking about gays.”
Johnson had ambitions to be a notorious serial killer and succeeded in killing two gay men and wounding one before being arrested. Ironically, one of his victims, former State Senator John Chenoweth, was a politician whose homosexual orientation was not well known. Johnson wanted to terrify the local St. Paul/Minneapolis gay and lesbian community and wrote a public letter which laid out his plans, signing the six-page manifesto, “The AIDS Commission.” Johnson kept a personal journal in which he described how this goal became even stronger when he was diagnosed as HIV positive.
As of 2003, Johnson is serving his sentence as an openly gay man at St Cloud Correctional Facility, St. Cloud, Minnesota.
“Life’s just one big opinion and what you make of your opinion. I don’t have any opinion whatsoever for homosexuals, except they oughta all be taken care of.”
One of Jeffrey Swinford’s earliest memories of confronting homosexuality was in the 8th grade: “I remember my science teacher Miss Blume…she [said], ‘Pick a subject, something you don’t approve of and why.’ So I went to the librarian — she’s a doctor — she sent me to the encyclopedia to look up homosexuality. I pretty much just copied down a lot of stuff out of the encyclopedia about it. And at the end of it, I just wrote down in my own words that I didn’t approve of it, I didn’t think it was right, and I didn’t think that any good could come out of it.”
Swinford believed that the local Little Rock Police Department was not concerned with crimes against homosexuals, and as a consequence, sought them out as easy prey to rob. On July 30, 1993, Swinford and two friends met Chris Miller and Joe Fredericks at a park where gay men hung out. They agreed to go to Miller’s house for drinks and drugs. Swinford claims that Miller made a sexual advance towards his friend which led to a fight and Miller’s death.
“By the time we got arrested for it, tell you the truth, I’d really almost forgot about it — wasn’t in my mind anymore. I thought about it, you know, a little bit after it happened. But (sighs), I don’t want to sound like it wasn’t a big deal, you know, but just one less problem the world had to mess with.”
On August 31, 2000, Swinford was released to the Searcy parole office in Prairie County, AK. In September 2002, he was rearrested for aggravated assault, receiving stolen property, and fleeing from police. Swinford is eligible for parole again in 2009.
The following three men are featured as additional interviews in the DVD version of Licensed to Kill:
Born October 23, 1968. Chester was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping, conspiracy, half a dozen other related offenses, and the first degree murder of Anthony Milano, a gay man, on December 15, 1987. Along with a friend, Richard Laird, Chester met Milano at a bar (non-gay specific) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Laird was heard yelling, “I hate fucking faggots” during the evening. All three left the bar together and Milano was murdered a few hours later. Chester denies taking part in beating Milano and fatally slashing his throat. Chester is on death row at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A website has been set-up to assist his appeal: www.kmf.org/chester.
Born May 5, 1941. Feikema met transvestite Larry Venzant on December 19, 1993 and took him home to have sex. Feikema claims he believed that Venzant was a biological woman. According to Feikema, after a disagreement over what type of sex they would have, a fight ensued, leading to the fatal stabbing of Venzant. Upon learning that he was a man, Feikema cut off Venzant’s penis and put it into the victim’s mouth. Feikema was convicted of first degree murder, but mentally ill, and sentenced for 21-years at a correctional center where he would also receive psychiatric therapy. Feikema was paroled on March 24, 2004.
Born November 19, 1968. Along with Corey Burley, who is featured in Licensed to Kill, Kirby and a third friend took part in the beating of David Calloway and the murder of Thanh Nguyen in Dallas, Texas on October 21, 1991. In this interview excerpt, Kirby discusses how he has gone home with gay men out of curiosity, despite having participated in gay bashings. For his crime, he received a 20-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and is serving his sentence at Stiles Unit in Beaumont, Texas. Parole was denied in 2002, but as of May 2004, Kirby’s case is under review for possible parole.