JANUARY 28, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
Activists say Miss, killing may have been hate crime
> Continued from Page 5
"j\ny position being taken by authorities
that this wasn't a hate crime, we feel to be a
smoke screen and a cover-up," Romanello
told Houston Voice.
"It was New Year's Eve—not just the turn
of the year, but the rum of the decade, the century and the millennium—and to say that two
straight guys went to a gay bar and picked up
and murdered a gay guy, on that evening, and
it wasn't a hate crime, is bullshit," he said.
Other local and national activists said
they are very concerned, but taking a more
Tolbert's body was found in Alabama,
and his alleged killers will be prosecuted in
Mobile. But the Alabama Gay & Lesbian
Alliance isn't currently pursuing the case as
a hate crime, said spokesman David White,
although the group is continuing to monitor press reports and talk with activists
about the issue.
"Until I really know that for sure, I don't
want to publicize it and be embarrassed
later on," White said.
The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is
"very closely following the lead of the local
[activists]," said spokesman David Elliott.
"We don't have any independent information
that would suggest it is a hate crime, but we
are staying in contact with the local groups
because they are the ones to make that determination and that will need our support.
"We want it fully investigated, but we are not
brashly jumping to any conclusions," he said.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence
Programs is also monitoring the case, said
board member Jeffrey Montgomery, who also
serves as executive director of the Triangle
Foundation, Michigan's statewide group
addressing anti-gay violence.
"This looks a lot like an anti-gay motivated crime, although I'm not saying it is or
it isn't," Montgomery said, listing the fact
that Tolbert was killed—and the especially
violent way he was killed—as warning
signs prompting his concern.
Insisting that Tolbert was only killed so
Kabat and Bentley could steal his car
appears "wrong-headed," Montgomery
said. With most car-jackings, he said, "the
person wants the car and doesn't want to
spend a lot of time with the victim."
In Tolbert's case, in contrast, "we have
what is typical of most gay killings—this
overkill aspect, where in this case he was brutally beaten and strangled," Montgomery
said. "It takes time to do that, and car-jackers
don't take that much time."
If prosecutors take these factors into
account and still don't believe Tolbert's
death was a hate crime, they owe the area's
gay residents a more complete explanation
of why the possible motive has been ruled
out, Montgomery said.
A 'kind-hearted' friend
Almost three weeks after he went
out to celebrate New Year's with friends
at Joey's, Tolbert was buried last Thursday in Mississippi.
Those who knew Tolbert remembered him
as an open, caring person who would do anything for his friends.
"He was always so kind-hearted to
everyone," said Jon, a gay Gulfport, Miss.,
resident who asked to be identified only by
his first name.
Speaking with Houston Voice the day of
Tolbert's funeral, Jon recounted how he and
many friends felt too "shaken up" to attend
the memorial service.
"They buried him an hour ago.... We were
hit pretty hard, and we decided to let them
spend that time with family," he said. "We're
going next week to visit him at his grave."
Jon said he first met Tolbert through
mutual acquaintances, and the two had
grown to be close friends over the last
year and a half.
"He was a very caring person, very
open-hearted. He had a large circle of
friends on the coast, and he would go out
of his way for anybody," Jon said, his voice
filled with emotion.
At the time of his death, Tolbert was living with his parents while his home in
George County was being renovated,
according to Jon.
Renaldo, who is from Jackson, Miss.,
said he met Tolbert and saw him several
times at Joey's, where Tolbert was a regular.
"He was really always smiling—he had
good vibes about him, fun vibes," Renaldo
said. "He was always laughing and stuff,
and he didn't say anything negative."
With Jamie Tolbert, 'we have what is typical
of most gay killings—this overkill aspect/
said Jeff Montgomery, a spokesman for the
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects.
Both Jon and Renaldo said Tolbert's
death had a profound effect on the area's
discrete but tight-knit gay community.
"Everyone is talking about it, and everyone is concerned, but in the same sense,
there is a spirit of support," said Renaldo.
Renaldo predicted Tolbert's death could be
the impetus to drive the community to
"We all looked at the Matthew Shepard
thing, and it was shocking, but now it has
happened to one of our own," he said.
"We've dealt with a lot of stuff in
Mississippi, like the comments Trent l.ott
made about homosexuals, and we sat here
and kept our mouths shut about it. I think
right now everyone is very upset and tired
of it," Renaldo said.
You don't know
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