72-year-old woman faces hate crime enhancement for choking gay neighbor

Wanda Derby

A Richland Hills woman has been indicted for the assault of her gay neighbor after she allegedly beat and choked him with her cane while screaming “faggot” back in March.

Wanda Jena Derby, 72, became upset when her adult son began moving in with neighbor Lloyd Guerrero and his family on March 28, Richland Hills police Detective Tye Bell said previously. She allegedly approached Guerrero and beat him with her cane, yelling “faggot” and trying to choke him.

Bell said Derby told police she was afraid Guerrero would give her son AIDS because he was gay.

Guerrero suffered bruises to his body and neck but was treated at the scene by police.

Derby was initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony, but was indicted Sept. 14 on a charge of assault causing bodily injury, a Class-A misdemeanor.

Christopher McGregor, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, said Derby’s case was presented to the grand jury as a felony, but they returned it as a misdemeanor indictment.

McGregor said the language in the indictment was used to try to convince a jury that the assault was a hate crime, which could increase Derby’s sentence.

According to the indictment, Derby caused bodily injury to Guerrero “by hitting him with a cane or by hitting him with her hand, or by pinning his neck to a wall with a cane.”

The indictment also states that Derby “intentionally selected Lloyd Guerrero as the victim of the offense” because of her “bias or prejudice against a person or a group, namely: Homosexuals.”

Texas’ hate crimes statute doesn’t allow a misdemeanor to be enhanced to a felony, but would require a minimum of 180 days in jail. Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Derby faces another misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly striking Guerrero’s mother when she tried to intervene in the attack. A pre-trial conference for both cases is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Guerrero told Instant Tea that he’s healed emotionally since the March assault and no longer harbors angry feelings toward Derby. He and his family moved out of the apartment complex within a week of the attack, he said.

He said 180 days in jail as a minimum punishment if Derby is convicted is a good thing, and he agrees that amount of time is enough for justice to be served and Derby to learn her lesson.

“Even though she did something terrible, people make mistakes. It’s not something she should ever be happy about,” he said. “I’m to the point where I can forgive her.”

Guerrero is focusing on getting his Project: Blue Voice organization classified as a nonprofit. He started the group after his hate crime attack to share the stories of others who have been attacked for being who they are. He said he’s already planning to visit schools in the coming months to start a dialogue about hate and bullying.

—  Anna Waugh

Richland Hills hate crime victim starts group

Lloyd Guerrero, a victim of a hate crime in Richland Hills March 28, explains how he was attacked with a cain by his 71-year-old neighbor.

The 25-year-old victim of a hate crime in Richland Hills March 28 is taking preventative measures into his own hands with a new organization to help those who have been attacked to speak out.

Lloyd Guerrero was beaten with a cane by his 71-year-old neighbor Wanda Derby while he was trying to help her son move in to his family’s apartment next door.

Derby allegedly attacked him and called him “faggot,” later allegedly telling police she thought he would give her son AIDS because Guerrero is gay.

Although he sustained minor bruises from the incident, he said other incidents that his friends have encountered over the years from people that were never caught pushed him to use his personal experience to help others speak out for justice. The next day, March 29, he started working on Project: Blue Voice.

“I’m not so much doing it for me anymore. I’m doing it for all those people who can’t or won’t speak out,” he said. “If it helps one person, then that’s awesome and that would make me feel like I helped.”

The project originally began on Facebook, he said, as a page to bring hate crime attacks to the attention of the public and encourage those who have survived attacks to come forward and report them.

But Guerrero said the page was not enough. The project grew into an organization and Guerrero has filed for nonprofit status with Texas. He launched a website Sunday and is now incorporating videos on YouTube. He has already filmed a video speaking about his experience but has not yet uploaded it to the sites.

Videos are intended for victims of hate crimes to wear half of a plain blue Phantom of the Opera-type mask to hide part of their identity while sharing their story. Family members who share stories of loved ones whom they have lost to violence should wear the entire mask to show that they are speaking for someone that can no longer speak for themselves, he said.

The blue mask is a symbol of the organization, and Guerrero said he took the color from Facebook because that’s where the group started and also decided to use blue because of the black and blue bruises that physically heal but remain emotionally intact after violent acts.

He said he wants the project to go national with input and participation to make the public aware that hate crimes happen everywhere but are not always reported.

“What we want to accomplish nationally is that these things [hate crimes] are happening and people are getting away with it,” he said. “People aren’t talking about it. If they see other people speaking out, then maybe they’ll feel more comfortable talking about it.”

Guerrero said he has received more than 100 emails and Facebook messages from LGBT youth and family members who have contacted him to share their stories. The stories brought tears to his tears and made him realize the potential he has to help prevent future violence.

“It made me cry because people can’t say anything because they’re too scared to,” he said. “The further we can go with [the project], the better chance we have of preventing things from happening.”

 

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Victim of anti-gay hate crime speaks out

Wanda Derby

The 25-year-old victim of an anti-gay hate crime in Richland Hills on March 28 has been interviewed by several TV stations over the last few days, showing the bruises he received during the attack.

Lloyd Guerrero was helping his neighbor move in after his neighbor had a falling out with his mother, Wanda Derby. Derby became angry and began beating Guerrero with her cane, according to police.

Derby, 71, allegedly called Guerrero “faggot” several times while beating him and trying to choke him. Guerrero told Dallas Voice that when he moved in with his mother a few months ago while in town on business, Derby began attacking him on Facebook.

Guerrero grew up in the apartment next door to Derby and was surprised by the virtual attacks, which escalated from calling him gay — something he said he isn’t open about unless asked — to writing that he has AIDS.

“That’s a social network. You don’t just go and blab something like that out,” Guerrero told Fox 4 News.

Guerrero said he doesn’t have AIDS and suffered minor scrapes and bruises during the incident.

Derby was arrested and released on a $11,500 bond Thursday. She faces second-degree charges for assault with a deadly weapon, but the charge is upgraded to a first-degree felony because of the hate-crime classification. She faces up to life in prison.

Watch some of the TV coverage after the jump.

—  Anna Waugh