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

Trial delayed another 4 months in gay Dallas man’s 2008 murder, dismemberment

Seth Winder

Last week we told you the trial of Seth Winder, who’s charged with first-degree murder in the September 2008 dismemberment of gay Dallas resident Richard Hernandez — was scheduled to go forward this month, on Jan. 24.

We also told you that the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case, was a little skeptical about the trial date because jail records showed that Winder’s defense attorney, Derek Adame, hadn’t visited his client recently.

Well, according to Denton County court records, the trial has now been pushed back until May 23. That’s a delay of four additional months. If Winder’s trial goes forward on May 24, it will have been more than 2 ½ years since Hernandez’s murder. But at this point, we’d say that’s a pretty big “if.”

Neither prosecutors nor Adame could immediately be reached for comment.

—  John Wright

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

Schoolteacher arrested in 2008 shooting death of partner

Vaughn told police Judy Bell was shot by an intruder, but police say Vaughn was a suspect all along

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn

CEDAR HILL — Few details emerged this week about what may have led a woman to fatally shoot her lesbian partner in this suburb south of Dallas in 2008, or how authorities finally linked her to the crime three years later.

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn, 41, was arrested Monday, Dec. 6, on a charge of first-degree murder in the February 2007 murder of her partner, Judy Marie Bell, 34.

After being taken into custody at the high school where she teaches in Oklahoma City, Vaughn waived extradition and was brought Tuesday to the Dallas County jail, where she was being held on $500,000 bond.

Vaughn called 911 in the early morning hours of Feb. 29, 2008, and said an intruder had shot Bell in the Cedar Hill home they shared. But there were no signs of forced entry, and authorities never believed Vaughn’s story.

“She’s always been a person of interest, and our detectives have actually kept up with her location over the years because of that,” said Corky Brown, a spokesman for the city of Cedar Hill. “Recently, they came across some information that gave them what they were looking for.”

Brown declined to elaborate and said the motive for the crime remained unknown.

“We don’t typically try them [cases] in the public,” Brown said. “The idea is to get the information to the district attorney and let them try the case.”

Marshall McCallum, the assistant Dallas County district attorney assigned to the case, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons said court records contained no additional information because the case was referred by a grand jury.

According to media reports, both Vaughn and Bell taught at Permenter Middle School in Cedar Hill at the time of the murder. They’d lived together for four years.

Bell was a special education teacher and basketball coach. Vaughn taught English and language arts.

Bell’s 10-year-old son and three of Vaughn’s children — ages 11-20 — were in the home sleeping at the time of the shooting.

Vaughn began teaching in Oklahoma City in February 2009.  Bell’s son now lives with his father in Houston.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Oklahoma City teacher charged with murder in lesbian partner’s 2008 Cedar Hill slaying

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn

A woman is accused of fatally shooting her lesbian partner in their Cedar Hill home in 2008.

Seidah Muhammad Vaughn, a teacher, was arrested Monday at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City, according to The Oklahoman. Vaughn is charged with first-degree murder.

Vaughn’s partner, Judith Marie Bell, was fatally shot on Feb. 29, 2008, in the bedroom of her home in the suburb just south of Dallas.

Vaughn told police an intruder shot Bell, but there were no signs of forced entry at the home.

Bell had been a special education teacher. Vaughn began teaching in Oklahoma City last year.

—  John Wright

Gay murder victim Richard Hernandez’s friend to launch website documenting ‘delay of justice’

Victim Richard Hernandez, left, and suspect Seth Lawton Winder

While we’re on the subject of local gay murder victims whose friends want to see justice, we thought we’d let you know about a note we received this morning from one Rudy Araiza.

Araiza was close friends with Richard Hernandez, who was murdered and dismembered at his apartment in Far North Dallas more than two years ago, in September 2008. Seth Lawton Winder is charged with first-degree murder in Hernandez’s slaying and is awaiting a trial that’s been postponed several times. According to the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, Winder’s case is now set for trial in late January.

We aren’t sure whether Araiza, Hernandez’s friend, was inspired by the actions of Lisa Stone’s friends, but he wrote to inquire about obtaining copies of Dallas Voice articles on the murder, because he’s interested in launching a website. Here’s part of what he said:

“I want to start a Richard Hernandez Justice website to keep journals and updates on his delay of Justice! As we leave 2010 and into 2011, we are still in suspense mode waiting to hear, or see ‘Justice’ happen here from delay after delay of Seth Winder. I had a dream the other night, and in my dream Richard was there, in a place where Happiness and Life were the heavens. I was extremely angry with him and told him that he left a lot of people with heavy hearts, he said that everything was going to be okay, and that he was watching over us. It was a typical answer that only Richard would have said to me, which let me know that he was happy and right! It sounds crazy, but I woke up knowing and feeling good inside knowing that Richard for a mere 5 minutes was having a conversation with me. My heart believes that he knows what’s going on, and  he knows Justice will come soon.”

—  John Wright

Gay porn actor DJ Veritas jailed on murder charge

TAMARA LUSH  |  Associated Press Writer

NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida — Jason Andrews was a bisexual Chicago DJ with a British accent, whose chiseled jaw and good looks landed him roles in countless gay porn videos. Amanda Logue was a married, bleach-blond Georgia woman who once owned a lingerie shop, dabbled in prostitution and starred in several X-rated videos herself.

Together, they stabbed and bludgeoned a 41-year-old tattoo shop owner to death with a sledgehammer — and hatched some of their plans in typo- and expletive-laden text messages, Florida detectives said.

“I’m so glad you’re really commited to this take. Keep eyes for a knife, etc for me!” Andrews typed on his BlackBerry hours before the slaying, according to a transcript of the messages included in court records.

Logue replied in a nearly incomprehensible text that she was excited — and she wanted to have sex after they killed him.

Nearly two months after Dennis “Scooter” Abrahamsen was found dead in his Tampa-area home, Logue and Andrews were indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges. Logue is being held without bail at a Florida jail — her attorney didn’t return calls for comment — and Andrews was arrested Thursday, July 15 in Tennessee.

Andrews was arrested by U.S. Marshals and the Chattanooga Police Department after working for several weeks as a manager at the Chattanooga Billiard Club, an upscale pool hall and cigar lounge.

“I would say he was very surprised. He was very clean cut, broad shoulders, dressed in a suit, not in a suit and tie, but more ‘Miami Vice,’ more of a GQ appearance,” said Paul Salayko, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.

He is jailed in Tennessee until he can be extradited to Florida. Authorities did not yet know if he had a lawyer.

Police in Florida say the pair killed Abrahamsen in the early morning of May 15 and swiped $6,000 cash, his credit cards and a video camera. Abrahamsen had hired Logue — whose porn name is “Sunny Dae” — to work at a sex party at his house, and police said that’s when Logue and Andrews set him up. They traded dozens of text messages about their homicidal plan, police said.

According to an affidavit, Logue would later deny that she had anything to do with the killing and claim Andrews was the one who bludgeoned Abrahamsen.

“Logue told (the detective) that Andrews grabbed the back of her hair then twisted her arm behind her back. Andrews forced her to view Abrahamsen’s crushed skull and told her that’s what would happen to her if she told anyone.”

Logue and Andrews met on the set of a porn video late last year and fell in love — even though Logue was married to a man in Georgia, authorities and friends said. Her husband did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.

Andrews’ Chicago friends find it difficult to believe he was involved in the killing. The 27-year-old Andrews was known in that city as DJ Veritas, and his Facebook and MySpace pages feature several video clips of him playing techno music in large clubs.

“He was a really straight up dude,” said Michael Sarkowicz, a Chicago club photographer.

The 28-year-old Logue seemed like a decent person, said Kristen Cameron, a Florida-based model who met her last year. According to several profiles on modeling websites, Logue did bikini and fetish modeling.

“She was professional, prompt and seemed all around normal, well so I thought,” Cameron wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “She was nice to me and was a great model! I felt a connection to her since we both have southern backgrounds.”

But Cameron’s opinion changed this spring when she saw how Logue acted around Andrews, her new boyfriend.

“Amanda wasn’t the Amanda I knew,” Cameron wrote. “She wouldn’t talk, all she did was text with Jason.”

Andrews, Cameron said, was obnoxious and brash. He often bragged about his military service, of which Cameron was skeptical.

In April and May, according to their Twitter accounts, Logue and Andrews spent several weeks in Florida, shooting porn videos, lolling on the beach and professing their love for each other. Photos on Logue’s Facebook show the pair grinning and hugging.

On May 14, Andrews posted a link to a pornographic photo of Logue and wrote on his Twitter account: “therealsunnydae and I are killing time waiting for a party to find us!”

The next day, detectives said, Abrahamsen hired Logue to have sex on camera during a party at his house. During the party, Logue texted her boyfriend several times, witnesses told investigators.

Text messages retrieved from Andrews’ BlackBerry show the couple discussed vinyl gloves, when other guests would leave Abrahamsen’s home and what was inside a safe.

According to an affidavit, everyone at the party left Abrahamsen’s home around 5 a.m. May 15 — except for Logue. Andrews waited outside in his car, still texting her.

“Just get him on his face either bash or tell me to get in and. Where to go.” Andrews wrote.

“K I’m horny! I’m getting him to play music,” Logue typed.

“Wicked. Ill just be waiting. Really. Take. Your. Time,” Andrews replied.

Abrahamsen was found dead in his house by a family member some 18 hours later, face down on a massage table with blood splattered on the walls and ceiling fan. Authorities have not officially disclosed a motive for the killling.

At 4:29 p.m. on May 16 — less than a day after the murder — Logue wrote on her Twitter account, using Andrews’ Twitter name “Hearveritas:” “Taking it easy with hearveritas! Laying around eating popcorn and watching movies!”

At 5:20 p.m., Andrews tweeted: “therealsunnydae and I wanna go watch a movie tonight, any suggestion?”

As detectives pieced together the slaying, Logue and Andrews were arrested May 18 in a neighboring county after trying to use Abrahamsen’s credit card at Home Depot.

But officials didn’t have enough evidence to link the pair to the killing, and released them. On May 19, she went home to her husband and child in Georgia.

On May 21, Andrews wrote on his Twitter account in Hebrew: “Amanda please let me know when you are ok, really. My heart can’t take the weight of the fear that I would never see you again.”

It’s unclear whether Logue ever saw Andrews’ plea, or whether she replied to him. On May 26, she was arrested in Georgia and taken to a Florida jail, where she awaits trial.

—  John Wright