Trial set in gay man’s 2008 murder

After three years of delays, Seth Winder will be tried next week for  Richard Hernandez’s murder

hernandez.Richard

Richard Hernandez

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

DENTON — More than three years after gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez disappeared, his accused killer is set to stand trial next week.

Authorities believe the 38-year-old Hernandez was murdered and dismembered inside his Far North Dallas apartment in early September 2008, but they never found his remains.

Seth Lawton Winder, 32, is charged with first-degree murder and faces up to life in prison.

Winder’s trial has been delayed numerous times, but Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, said this week she’s confident it will go forward next week, with jury selection set for Monday, Nov. 14.

“Everybody wants a swifter and quicker justice, but you’ve got to do it right,” Beck said, referring to the delays. “Bottom line, we want justice, so if that means it takes a while, then so be it.”

Rudy Araiza, who was a close friend of Hernandez’s and is also gay, said he’s looking forward to Winder’s trial.

“I hope that we get justice finally after three years of waiting,” Araiza said. “For me it’ll be, I hope, closure.”

Araiza said he hopes Winder receives the maximum sentence of life in prison.

“Just as long as he’s away and out of the public view, and away where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else,” Araiza said.

Winder’s father, Rodney Winder, agreed, saying he wants “justice served and Seth away where he cannot hurt anyone.”

Rodney Winder and his wife, Karen Dilbeck, have said they repeatedly tried to get help for Seth, who suffers from schizophrenia, in the months prior to Hernandez’s murder. Dilbeck would later publish a book about the case, which was also the subject of an episode of A&E’s The First 48.

A judge initially found Seth Winder incompetent to stand trial, but he’s since been restored to competency.

It’s unclear what type of relationship existed between Hernandez and Winder. But police recovered a digital camera containing pornographic images of Winder that were taken inside Hernandez’s apartment.

When Hernandez failed to show up at his job at Wal-Mart, authorities went to the apartment on Rosemeade Parkway and discovered large amounts of blood on the floor, walls and couch — in addition to tissue from internal organs in the bathtub.

Police concluded that Winder placed the rest of Hernandez’s remains in a Dumpster, which had already been emptied and its contents buried in a landfill.

Purchases made on Hernandez’s debit card led police to Winder. They found blood-covered evidence including a sword at two campsites where Winder had been staying.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Notable deaths: Wagner, Raggio, LaLanne

Carolyn Wagner

Carolyn Wagner

Former P-FLAG vice president Carolyn Wagner, 57, died of cancer in Tulsa.

Wagner became an advocate for the LGBT community after her son was a victim of bullying. She sued the Fayetteville, Ark., school district in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she prevailed.

While he was a teenager, Wagner brought her son to Dallas to participate in the Gayla Prom, which was then held at the Dallas Grand Hotel in Downtown. At the time it was the only event of its type held anywhere in the region and one of the few in the country. P-FLAG Dallas was the event’s sponsor.

Wagner said at the event that she was delighted to have her son experience a healthy dating environment.

Wagner served as grand marshal of the Tulsa Pride parade in 2000. She founded the support group, Families United Against Hate.

She was a nurse who spent her career caring for children that were abuse victims and those with cancer and terminal illnesses. She founded Camp Rainbow for children with cancer.

Wagner died Jan. 18, and a memorial service was held Saturday. Donations may be made to P-FLAG.

Louise Raggio

Dallas women’s rights activist Louise Raggio, 91, died this weekend.

She was the first female Dallas County assistant district attorney. When Raggio was first hired she was paid half what the men in the department made. She was the first woman in Dallas to prosecute a criminal case and the first woman to serve as director of the State Bar of Texas.

After going into private practice, Raggio worked to get the Marital Property Act of 1967 passed. Prior to passage of that law, married women could not have their own bank accounts, apply for mortgages or have their own credit in Texas. Dallas District Court Judge Lorraine Raggio is her daughter-in-law. Her son, Greer Jr., ran for Congress in 2010 against incumbent Pete Sessions.

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne, 96, the original TV fitness expert, died on Sunday. His show began in 1951 and ran for 34 years.

“The only way you can hurt the body is not use it,” LaLanne said. “Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it’s never too late.”

In 1955, at age 41, LaLanne swam handcuffed from Alcatraz to San Francisco. The year before, he set a world record swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge under water. In 1956, he set a world record for push-ups.

LaLanne opened his first gym in 1936. By the 1980s, he owned more than 200 Jack LaLanne’s European Health Spas. The company became Bally’s Total Fitness.

—  David Taffet

Trial in gay Dallas man’s murder set for Jan. 24, but DA’s office warns that’s ‘subject to change’

Seth Winder

We received a message Monday from Karen Winder, the stepmother of Seth Winder, who’s awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Hernandez, a gay man from Dallas who was brutally dismembered in September 2008.

Karen Winder, who wrote a book about the case, was wondering if we’d heard whether the trial — which has been repeatedly delayed for a variety of reasons — is expected to go forward as scheduled on Jan. 24.

“The prosector has never responded to me and [defense attorney Derek] Adame won’t talk to Rodney [Seth's father] or me and we have tried to contact him by phone and e-mail in the past,” Karen Winder wrote. “I could try to call his office again, but I doubt he will talk to us, though he talks to Seth’s mother.”

In response to Winder’s message, we contacted Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, where the crime occurred. Here’s what Beck said:

“It is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 24, that week. Voir dire would probably be most of the day Monday, with testimony likely to begin Tuesday the 25th,” Beck said. “We are prepared to have that as an official trial date. However, those are always subject to change, and the reason why I have a little bit of hesitation this time, is because we’re able to access the visitation log at the jail, and his attorney has not been to see him in quite some time. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything — they can communicate in other fashions — but we’re just a little skeptical about his readiness for trial here in just a couple of weeks. But, we’re planning to go. There’s been no motion for a continuance filed at this point in time, and certainly none ruled on. So as of right now, it is a solid trial date. That’s always subject to change, and that’s the best I can give you right now.”

We’ve left a message for Adame and we’ll update once we hear back.

—  John Wright

2 arrested in anti-gay beating at famed gay bar

JENNIFER PELTZ  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — A patron at the Stonewall Inn, a powerful symbol of the gay rights movement since protests over a 1969 police raid there, was tackled to the floor and beaten in an anti-gay bias attack over the weekend, authorities said Monday, Oct. 4.

Two men were arrested in the early Sunday beating, which came little more than a day after a group of male friends bidding an affectionate good night to each other were attacked in another anti-gay assault elsewhere in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

The attacks came amid heightened attention to anti-gay bullying following a string of suicides attributed to it last month, including a New Jersey college student’s Sept. 22 plunge off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was secretly streamed online.

But the attack prosecutors described at the Stonewall Inn especially galled and saddened gay rights advocates, some of whom wondered whether a place known for a defining moment in the history of gay rights might spur a new push for tolerance.

For the Stonewall’s owners, the episode was a sharp and upsetting contrast to its legacy.

“We at the Stonewall Inn are exceedingly troubled that hate crimes like this can and do still occur in this day and age. Obviously the impact of these men’s violent actions is even deeper given that it occurred on the premises of the Stonewall Inn,” an owner, Bill Morgan, wrote in an e-mail.

The victim was using a restroom at the Greenwich Village bar around 2 a.m. local time Sunday when a man at the next urinal, Matthew Francis, asked what kind of an establishment it was, prosecutors said. On being told it was a gay bar, Francis used an anti-gay slur and told the victim to get away from him, assistant district attorney Kiran Singh said.

“I don’t like gay people. Don’t pee next to me,” Francis added, according to the prosecutor.

Francis, 21, then demanded money, punched the victim in the face and continued beating him after a co-defendant blocked the door, tackled the victim and held him down, Singh said. The victim was treated at a hospital and was released, she said.

Francis said nothing at his arraignment Monday. A defense lawyer said that Francis wasn’t the aggressor and that the episode wasn’t motivated by bias.

“Mr. Francis is not a violent person. Nor did he try to rob anyone,” said the attorney, Angel Soto. “There may have been a fight, but it certainly wasn’t a hate crime.”

Francis was held on $10,000 bond. His co-defendant was awaiting arraignment.

Just before midnight Friday, Oct. 1 several male friends hugging and kissing each other good night in Manhattan’s gay-friendly Chelsea neighborhood were confronted by a group of more than five people who used an anti-gay epithet and told them to go home because “this is our neighborhood,” according to a court document filed by prosecutors. Two other men lashed out with fists as Andrew Jackson hurled a metal garbage can into one victim’s head, prosecutors said.

Jackson, 20, was arraigned over the weekend on hate crime assault and other charges. His lawyer, Anne Costanzo, declined to comment Monday.

The Stonewall Inn became a rallying point for gay rights in June 1969, when a police raid sparked an uprising in an era when gay men and women were often in the shadows. Stonewall patrons fought with officers, and several days of demonstrations followed, in an outpouring that became a formative moment in the gay rights movement.

“The riots at Stonewall gave way to protests, and protests gave way to a movement, and the movement gave way to a transformation that continues to this day,” President Barack Obama said at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception at the White House in June 2009.

The Stonewall riots’ influence also is reflected in the names of some gay resource organizations, including student groups at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.

For the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works to combat attacks on gays and others, assaults like this weekend’s remain all too common problems. But the attack at the Stonewall Inn reverberates with a particularly disturbing resonance, executive director Sharon Stapel said.

“Even in a bar like the Stonewall Inn, which started a huge part of the gay rights movement — even the Stonewall Inn is not immune to this sort of violence, despite all of the work that they do to create a safe and tolerant atmosphere,” Stapel said. “It’s incredibly sad.”

But she said she hoped the incident and the atmosphere of concern about anti-gay harassment would spark new conversations about how to respond.

The Stonewall Inn has raised money for the Anti-Violence Project and other groups, and managers strive to make the bar inclusive, Morgan said.

“We do our best to run a nice, welcoming establishment where anyone can and should feel safe,” he said.

—  John Wright