G R A N T T O W N, W. Va., July 7 -- Gay-rights groups today demanded thatpolice and prosecutors say whether the slaying of a gay black man inMarion County may be a hate crime.
Arthur “J.R.” Warren Jr. was beaten to death, then repeatedlyrun over with a car and dumped on a highway in what investigatorssay was a staged hit-and-run.
Two unidentified 17-year-olds have allegedly confessed and arecharged with first-degree murder, but authorities have refused todivulge their motive.
Marion County Sheriff Ron Watkins has downplayed speculation thekilling was linked to Warren’s sexuality and said earlier this weekthere is “no indication” the killing was a hate crime.
Tales of HarassmentWarren, 26, had related stories of harassment to friends.
“As someone who knew J.R., I urge local law enforcementofficials to consider sexual orientation in this case or to let thecommunity know why it has been ruled out,” said Angela Dunlap,leader of a gay and lesbian support group at Fairmont StateCollege.
The national Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, D.C.,sent a field director to Grant Town to investigate today. The WestVirginia Lesbian and Gay Coalition also called for a publicexplanation.
“By all accounts, Warren was a slight man with a gentledemeanor who was chronically harassed because he was gay,” saidElizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign.“To rule out bias motivation based on his sexual orientation orrace seems premature at best and irresponsible at worst.”
Neither Watkins nor Prosecutor Richard Bunner immediatelyresponded to requests for comment today.
Almost the ‘Perfect Crime’The suspects, authorities say, apparentlybeat the slender, 5-foot-9 Warren in a vacant, nondescript grayhouse they were painting late Monday night.
After dumping his body in the fog on state Route 17 and drivingover him several times, the boys returned to the house and wiped upsome of the blood, the sheriff said. They burned their bloodyshirts and rags, then buried them in a hole next to a crawlspace.