Shown above is some text I've prepared for my next print. By the first two names you can probably tell that this is a list of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals who have been murdered in America in the past thirty years or so. It is by no means a complete list. And for me it is by no means an impersonal list. The third individual recorded here, Joseph Kelly, was my friend and neighbor.
Joe lived downstairs from me in a small house in Somerville, Massachusetts, that had two apartments. The night he was murdered I was out on a date with a woman I had just started seeing. I think we went to a party that night, I'm not sure, but I stayed overnight with her. When I returned home and opened the front door into the foyer which was shared by the two apartments, I knew immediately that something was wrong. My bicycle, which I usually kept in the hall, was missing and there was a strange odor. I went upstairs to my unit and moments later the phone rang. It was my landlord David, Joe's longtime friend and sometimes lover, who lived in the front house on the property. David asked if he could come over. I let him in, we went upstairs and David shivered as he told me the story. He had found Joe in the hall, barely alive, bound and gagged, stabbed nine times, partially dismembered, and his skull fractured. Joe died in David's arms, and David refused to allow anyone except himself to clean the crime scene. I later learned that this was because David had AIDS and was afraid that Joe might also carry the virus.
One of the things I remember most from this event was the kindness shown by the Somerville police. The detective who was investigating the case interviewed me a couple of times and, although he was clearly unfamiliar with what he termed "the gay lifestyle," he was very compassionate towards what he was learning about Joe through reading his diaries and immersing himself in the details of Joe's life. I really liked that detective. The perpetrator, a man named Thomas Moore who had met Joe through a personal ad, was caught fairly quickly. Moore, who had recently been released from prison, stole a leather vest, a camera, and a bank card from Joe's apartment after the murder, and it was his attempt to use the card without a password that led to his arrest.
I'm always grateful that I wasn't home that horrible night. I'm grateful for the friends who came and slept with me in the first days until the police captured the killer. And I'm grateful for the huge wake up call that Joe's death brought to me. I began to see a therapist in the aftermath, and within 6 months I had given up alcohol and drugs. Seeing how fragile life could be, I wanted to be fully awake every moment of whatever time I had left in my own life. Almost exactly one year after Joe's death, and four months before the trial and conviction of Thomas Moore, David succumbed to AIDS. He was one of so many that we lost to AIDS in that decade.
Rest in peace, my friends.