Crime Stoppers offers $5K reward for info on suspect in Mesquite hate crime

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Sondra Scarber, after an attack in a playground in Mesquite in February left her jaw detached

The North Texas Crime Commission is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Feb. 17 attack on Sondra Scarber in Mesquite, according to Crime Stoppers spokesman Mike Pappas.

Resource Center Dallas Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he contacted the North Texas Crime Commission to make them aware of the severity of the attack.

Scarber was attacked in playground by a father after she asked his 10-year-old son to stop bullying her 4-year-old. The suspect yelled anti-gay epithets as he threw Scarber to the ground before kicking her in the head and stomping her face. She suffered a badly dislocated jaw. Scarber’s partner, Hillary Causey, was untouched when the man fled with his four children and a woman.

The suspect is described as a black male, standing 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans. He drove away in a silver, early 2000s Chevy Impala with paper temporary tags.

Anyone with information may call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 877-373-8477 or Mesquite police at 972-216-6759.

Mesquite police spokesman Mike Hedgpeth said sometimes the reward motivates a reluctant witness to talk.

“Some people are motivated by money,” he said.

Scarber cheered when she heard the news that a reward was being offered.

“I hope he gets caught,” she said.

She said she’s begun eating some solid food and is feeling stronger today than yesterday.

 

—  David Taffet

Mesquite police ask for help identifying suspect in attack on lesbian

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Mesquite police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the suspect who brutally assaulted a lesbian in an apparent anti-gay hate crime on a playground at Seabourn Elementary School on Feb. 17.

Sondra Scarber suffered a dislocated jaw when she was attacked by the suspect after she tried to stop his children from bullying her partner’s 4-year-old son.

The suspect is a black male, standing 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans. He was with a woman and four children. He drove away in a silver, early 2000s Chevy Impala with paper temporary tags.

Anyone with information should call Mesquite police at 972-216-6759.


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—  David Taffet

Mesquite lesbian brutally beaten defending girlfriend’s son from bullying

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Sondra Scarber via WFAA

A lesbian is still recovering from a brutal beating that happened last week while addressing a parent about her girlfriend’s son being bullied.

Sondra Scarber went to the playground at Mesquite’s Seabourn Elementary with her girlfriend, Hillary Causey, and Causey’s 4-year-old son. After other kids began pushing him around, Scarber spoke to a father to address the issue.

But when the father realized Scarber was a lesbian and the two were a couple, she said he became enraged and began to beat her, calling her homophobic slurs.

“When he walked up thinking it was father and mom with the kid, he wasn’t as angry, but then when he figured out it was a female, he got like super pissed, and I don’t know why,” Causey told WFAA. “He was like, ‘Well if you think you’re a man… I’m going to treat you like a man,’” Causey told WFAA. “All she kept saying was, ‘I’m a female. I’m a female.” She never even had time to take her hands out of pockets to try and block herself.”

Scarber’s jaw is wired shut and her face is badly bruised. But Mesquite police haven’t caught the man responsible and told WFAA they don’t consider the assault a hate crime because the bullying among children was the reason behind it.

But the women insist it was hate crime because the father only became upset once he realized they were two women raising a son together.

The father is described as a black man, about 5’7”, who weighs 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans and was driving an early 2000′s silver Chevrolet Impala with temporary tags.

Watch the report below and read the statement issued by Resource Center Dallas, calling on Mesquite police to investigate the incident as a hate crime:

—  Anna Waugh

Death • 09.30.11

Wendy Churitch, 55, died suddenly at her home in Irving early Thursday morning, Sept. 29.

Churitch was born July 26, 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1980.

She was known and much loved for her eccentric and ever-present sense of humor, her love of pranks and practical jokes and for her devotion and loyalty to her family and to her large number of friends that she thought of — and that thought of her — as family.

After seven-and-a-half years as a couple, Churitch and the love of her life, Kay Mathews Churitch, were legally married in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2009.

Churitch was preceded in death by her parents, Helen and Pete Churitch Sr., and by her brother, Michael.

She is survived by her wife, Kay Mathews Churitch of Irving; by her brother, Pete Churitch Jr., and one sister, Robin Littrell, both of Indiana; by her wife’s sister, Erin Urquhart of Coppell, and brother, Robert Mathews of Buda; by her wife’s two daughters, Courtney Mathews of Lubbock and Amber Mathews of Three Rivers, Mich., and three grandchildren, Michael and Jourdan of Mesquite and Makenzie of Lubbock; by her beloved dogs, Bailey and Pala; and by a host of loving friends.

Churitch’s remains will be cremated. A memorial service is pending and details will be announced when they become available.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Friends remember shooting victim as strong, generous

Police arrest homeless man for using Cheung’s debit card; no murder charges filed yet in gay man’s death

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Aaron Cheung
Aaron Cheung

Aaron Cheung was remembered this week as a strong, outspoken, caring person who was living his dream of owning a restaurant.

Cheung, 27, was found shot to death in the backseat of his car outside a condo in northeast Dallas in the early morning hours of Sunday, Dec. 12.

Dallas police say the motive for the crime was robbery, and they have no reason to believe Cheung’s sexual orientation was a factor.

On Wednesday, DPD arrested a homeless man who they say used Cheung’s debit card at a downtown 7-Eleven after the murder

Charles Edward Freeman, 58, is charged with fraudulent use or possession of identifying information, a felony, and was being held on $50,000 bail. As of Thursday morning, Dec. 16, Freeman was considered a “person of interest” but had not been charged in Cheung’s robbery and murder.

Cheung was a founding member of Fuse, the LGBT young men’s group at Resource Center Dallas, according to his close friend Alex Ortega. Cheung also once served on the youth board at Youth First Texas.

But for the last few years, Ortega said, Cheung devoted most of his time to Bacon and Friends, his restaurant in Mesquite.

“That was his dream,” said Ortega, who worked at the restaurant last summer. “His passion was food. He was always talking about watching Food Network and then trying different things. He was just really creative and a real people person. He had so many regulars, and they all asked for him. … He was very meticulous about the food, and people just really gravitated to that, all the effort he put into everything. It was always busy.”

Cheung had just gotten home from work at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and was retrieving a box from the backseat of his car outside a condo he shared with his parents in the 8100 block of Skillman Road when he was shot, according to police. The suspect ambushed Cheung from behind and shot him once in the head before making off with his wallet and several hundred dollars in cash.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, police released surveillance video from a 7-Eleven on Commerce Street, showing a short, older black man with a limp using Cheung’s debit card to purchase cigarettes and chicken wings.

Freeman was arrested at the Bridge, a homeless shelter, after people there recognized him from the surveillance video.

Police say Freeman fits the description of a man who was seen by a witness fleeing the area of Cheung’s murder.

“It’s going to take some forensic evidence before they can list him as a suspect,” DPD spokesman Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said Thursday morning.

“They’re still looking at him as a person of interest.”

Ortega said he was glad that police appeared close to solving the crime.

“He was the strong one of the people I knew and hung out with,” Ortega said of Cheung. “You’d never think anything would hurt him, so it was just a complete shock. He’s from the East Coast, originally from New York. He was really tough and outspoken.

“He had a lot of street smarts, and you would never think this would happen to him, ever.”

A memorial service for Cheung was held Thursday afternoon in Rowlett.

Ortega said Cheung was an only child and he hoped the service would help his parents cope.

“I think it’s a really good thing for his family to be able to see how many people he affected,” Ortega said. “He really did do a lot for people who were in his life. If he cared about you, he would give you the world.

“He would do just about anything to help you out.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Gay man found murdered in northeast Dallas

Aaron Cheung, left, in an ad for his restaurant

Aaron Cheung, 27, was found dead in his car by a passerby at 3:20 a.m. on Dec. 12, according to police reports. He died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

Cheung was an early organizer and member of Youth First Texas and the Resource Center group men’s group Fuse. He was born in West Islip, N.Y., on Long Island. He graduated from North Myrtle Beach High School in South Carolina and then moved to Dallas with his family nine years ago. From the Dallas Police Department:

At about 3:20 a.m. on December 12, 2010, a passerby found Aaron Cheung, a 27-year-old male, dead in his parked car near his apartment home in the 8100 block of Skillman in northeast Dallas. He appeared to have a gunshot wound to the head. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause and manner of his death. Homicide detectives are actively working this case which is reported on service number 339510X. There are no identified witnesses in this case at this time and no other information available.

According to Chueng’s former roommate, he was shot outside his parents’ home in an apparent robbery. He had moved back in with his parents just a week earlier. Cheung owned the restaurant Bacon & Friends in Mesquite, which was still in its first year of operation.

From Chueng’s MySpace page:

I love to cook, dining out, sappy movies, romantic sillies… there’s more… I love cars! Just got my 5th car in the last 7 years (this one’s gotta stick for a while). I also enjoy midnight drives to nowhere, going to the mall and shopping for nothing, good friends and GREAT times. Started a weight loss thing…. be on it for about 3 months… lost about 35lbs so i guess that’s an intrest as well I’m also a memeber with FUSE, check it out! www.getyourfuseon.com

DPD homicide detectives are working the case. LGBT police liaison Laura Martin is also looking into the matter. We’ll provide more details as soon as they’re available.

—  David Taffet

Gay Plano man who was discharged from Navy under ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ attempts to re-enlist

John James Coolidge III

John James Coolidge III, a 24-year-old gay man who was discharged from the Navy in 2007 under “don’t ask don’t tell,” says he walked into a recruiting station in Plano this morning and attempted to re-enlist — this time in the Reserves.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it had advised recruiting commanders they must accept gay applicants, after a federal district judge issued an order last week halting enforcement of DADT.

“I handed them every item I have from my military record,” Coolidge said of his visit to the recruiting station. “I said specifically, ‘I’ve been waiting three years and eight months to the day for this. I want this taken care of and changed, and I want to get back in.’”

Coolidge said he was directed to another recruiting office in Mesquite that handles re-enlistments. He said he plans to go there on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the government has asked an appellate court for an emergency stay of the order halting enforcement of DADT.

“I know it’s kind of up in the air, but I’m hoping the courts side with the fact that it really is unconstitutional,” said Coolidge, adding that he’s a gay Republican and proudly noting that the lawsuit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans.

Coolidge said he was a medic stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and had been the Navy for less than a year, when someone told his commander that he was dating a Marine sergeant — which wasn’t entirely true. “I just slept with him,” Coolidge said. “It wasn’t worth it either. He was slightly drunk and he had a really tacky red light in his room.”

Coolidge said he was discharged within a month, forcing him to come out to his Catholic parents. He contemplated suicide and checked himself into a psychiatric ward.

A Michigan native, Coolidge eventually moved to Texas and now lives in Plano. He said he’s currently unemployed but recently obtained his Certified Nursing Assistant license.

We’ll have an update on Coolidge after he visits the Mesquite recruiting office on Thursday.

UPDATE: Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reported Wednesday afternoon that another gay veteran who was discharged under DADT, Michael Moore, re-enlisted today in Mesquite. Here’s what Gainer said:

“Airman Michael Moore went to the Mesquite Recruiting Station and started his re-enlistment processing today. Fox 4 News Dallas accompanied him. You may recognize  Michael who carried the Rainbow Flag in the color guard leading the Alan Ross parade the last two years. I am so very proud of these young men and women who, although aware of the potential consequences and the obstacles that may be in their way, simply stand back up, dust themselves off, and say – I just want to continue to serve. SLDN is still advising active duty personnel to not come out until DADT is fully repealed. The DOJ appeal to the 9th Circuit Court can still go either way.”

—  John Wright