Death of Mitchell Polk is unexplained


Mitchell Polk

The death of Mitchell Polk, whose body was found a block from Peabody Clinic on Aug. 23, remains unexplained.

Dallas Voice filed a Freedom of Information Act request at the time of his death to try and find out more about what happened. That requerst was finally approved this week.

While we reported in September that the death was a murder, the police report we just got today states, “unexplained death (no offense),” meaning no murder investigation is underway.

Most of the information on the police report is redacted. The report doesn’t list Polk’s name, but lists the victim as “unknown.” Dallas Voice matched the location where Polk’s body was found with the police report number.

The report indicates no drugs or alcohol were involved and one line of narrative was partially redacted. What remains is information already known: “[redacted] locating the complainant deceased at the location. The complainant was observed to be in a state of decomposition. [redacted].”

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Trans woman murdered in Baltimore identified

Guilford Street in Baltimore, where a transgender woman was murdered this morning.

UPDATE: The murdered woman has been identified as Alphonza Watson.

Police in Baltimore are investigating the murder of a transgender woman shot to death early this morning (Wednesday, March 22) in Baltimore. The woman was identified as Alphonza Watson, and her mother, who said she had come out as transgender during her teens, said Watson went by the nickname “Peaches.”

According to The Washington Blade, police responded to reports of shots fired in the 2400 block of Guilford Avenue at about 4:15 a.m. and found the 38-year-old woman with a gunshot wound to the stomach. She was transported to Johns Hopkins Hospital where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

The Blade notes that witnesses reported hearing someone yelling for help and then hearing gunshots. Immediately after the shots, witnesses said they saw black men getting into a dark-colored vehicle and speeding away.

This marks the eighth transgender women murdered since the first of the year.

—  Tammye Nash

2nd suspect arrested in October murder of FW gay teen


Chaz Gilley

Fort Worth police have arrested two men in connection with the Oct. 8 death of a teenager friends have identified as being gay.


James Murphy, top, and Lajerrian Morgan have both been charged with capital murder in connection with the death of Chaz Gilley

James Murphy, 37, was arrested Oct. 18, and Lajerrian Morgan, 24, was arrested Nov. 10, and both have been charged with capital murder in the death of 18-year-old Chaz Gilley.

Relatives told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Gilley had been living in Mansfield and had only recently moved to the East Berry Street area to live with his mother. He had gotten a job at a local Goodwill store and on Oct, 7 had ridden his bicycle to the Wal-Mart store on East Berry to cash his check.

According to reports, an informant told police that Murphy and “another Blood gang member” were selling drugs at the apartment complex where Gilley lived with his mother. The men “saw a ‘white boy’ looking at his check,” and then followed the teen to Wal-Mart to wait for him to cash the check.

Police said security video from inside the store shows the two men shadowing Gilley, watching him count the money before following him outside. Video from outside the store shows Gilley riding away on his bicycle, with the two men following in a black car.

According to the arrest affidavit, Morgan and Murphy followed Gilley as he rode his bicycle down Berry, then used the car to knock him off the bike, then chased after him on foot, shooting him several times as he tried to run away.

Gilley was able to flag down a passing car, which drove him to John Peter Smith Hospital, but the teen died of his injuries about 24 hours later while in surgery.

The informant told police that several days after the murder, Murphy and Morgan were “laughing and bragging” about what they had done.

There is no indication that Gilley’s sexual orientation played any role in his murder.



—  Tammye Nash

Gay bar’s former employee arrested for murder of TWU student

bryant-charles-dean-webGrapevine Police have arrested a man who worked for Urban Cowboy Saloon, a Fort Worth LGBT nightclub, in connection with the murder of a Texas Women’s University student.

Charles Dean Bryant, 30, of Haslet is in custody and faces charges murder charges in connection with the death of Jacqueline “Jackie” Vandagriff, 24, of Frisco. Vandergriff’s body was discovered Wednesday morning, Sept. 14, in Acorn Woods Park, near the shore of Lake Grapevine, by firefighters responding to a report of a fire. Her body had been dismembered and burned.

Bryant was arrested after police searched his home in Haslet on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 18.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that friends told police Vandagriff, a junior at TWU majoring in nutrition, had gone to a bar in Denton on Tuesday night. They found video footage of her and Bryant together at the unnamed bar, leading them to search Bryant’s home.

The newspaper also reports that a student at the University of North Texas told the UNT police on Aug. 24 that Bryant was harassing her and the UNT police gave him a “no-trespass order” on Sept. 6. When he violated that order the next day, the university police got a warrant and arrested him on a stalking charge. The student was given an emergency protective order, and police released Bryant after telling him not to contact the young woman again. Bryant apparently ignored the protective order and tried to contact the UNT student again on Sept. 17, at which time two more warrants for his arrest were issued.

Those incidents do not appear to be related to the the Vandagriff’s murder.

Public records show that Bryant was arrested in March 2010 in Grapevine, and later convicted, on a charge of forgery. He was arrested April 2013, also in Grapevine, on a Class B misdemeanor charge of possession of less than 2 oz. of marijuana. The Star-Telegram reports that he was found guilty on misdemeanor assault charges in Washington in 2009.


Jacqueline Vandagriff

Urban Cowboy Saloon, located on Lancaster Avenue at Beach Street, is closed today, but a club spokesman posted a statement regarding Bryant on the bar’s Facebook page late Monday evening, Sept. 19: “We, The Urban Cowboy Saloon, would like to acknowledge the disturbing news that has broke today and assure our customers that Charles Dean Bryant was terminated as of Sunday, September 18th, for not showing up to his scheduled shift. Monday afternoon we learned why he didn’t show. We are grieving with our community and offer our deepest condolences for the Vandagriff family and friends. We are cooperative with authorities and will fully support law enforcement in their investigation.”


—  Tammye Nash

Former Fort Worth man killed in Miami


Steve Dutton, left, and his husband, Tom Lang. Lang died Sept. 10 after an altercation with a homeless man on a Miami street three days earlier.

Victim was married to former
Samaritan House CEO Steve Dutton


David Taffet  |  Senior Staff Writer

Murder suspect Evans Celestin (photo courtesy Miami Dade Corrections)

A homeless man in Miami has been charged with murder in connection with the death of Tom Lang, 71, husband of former Samaritan House CEO Steve Dutton.

Police arrested Evans Celestin, 38, and charged him with battery on a person 65 or older, felony battery and drug possession after Lang was injured in a confrontation between the two men. The charge was elevated to second degree murder several days later after Lang died.

Celestin is being held without bail.

The confrontation happened Wednesday, Sept. 7, as Dutton and Lang were walking across the street in downtown Miami. Dutton told police he had seen Celestin causing disturbances downtown on several occasions, and when he saw him again that day, he took a picture of him to give to police. Dutton said Celestin saw him take the photo and crossed the street to confront him and Lang. He said Celestin walked around him and pushed Lang down.

Lang hit his head on the pavement when he fell and began to bleed from his ears. Paramedics transported Lang to a local hospital where he died of his injuries three days later on Saturday, Sept. 10.

Funeral services for Lang will be held at Lena Pope Chapel, 3131 Sanguinet St. in Fort Worth at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24.

Samaritan House in Fort Worth was founded in 1991 as housing for people living with HIV/AIDS. Dutton headed the organization for 20 years and retired in 2012. He and Lang retired to Miami.

—  Tammye Nash

Colbert extradition delayed a month


Christopher Colbert

Christopher (aka Christian) Colbert’s extradition from Los Angeles County to Dallas has been delayed, possibly for as long as a month, according to a court clerk in L.A. He has a new court date set for May 18.

A clerk at Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles confirms that Colbert is still being held at that facility.

Colbert has been indicted on murder charges in connection with the death of Ronald Shumway last April. After killing Shumway, Colbert is accused of burying the body in cement in the backyard and then falsifying IDs to sell Shumway’s house. Colbert then withdrew the money from Shumway’s bank account and fled to L.A.

A tip from a Dallas Voice reader helped police locate Colbert and L.A. police arrested him on March 3. Dallas police detectives interviewed Colbert in L.A., where Colbert confessed to the murder, but claimed self-defense.

—  David Taffet

Kitty Genovese: The lesson in her legacy

Earlier this week, one of the topics trending on Facebook was the death of Winston Moseley, who died March 28 at the age of 81, in the prison at Dannemora, N.Y. Moseley had spent more that 50 years in prison for raping and murdering a woman named Kitty Genovese on March 13, 1964 in Queens, N.Y.


Kitty Genovese in 1964 and, inset, Mary Ann Zielonko in 2014

You may have heard the name “Kitty Genovese” before. Her murder and its aftermath are famous, the subject of news articles, scientific treatises, books, plays, songs. But one of the most important parts of her life has been overlooked, and the legacy of omission is in the lesson we can — we must — learn from it.

Genovese, 28 when she died, was a bar manager. When she left work around 3 a.m. that March day, Moseley — who did not know her — drove to a parking lot about 100 feet from her apartment and followed her. She was just steps from her own apartment when he attacked, raping her then stabbing her repeatedly as she screamed for help.

During the attack, the sound of voices nearby or someone turning on a light in a nearby apartment scared Moseley off. But he came back to attack Genovese again.

Kitty Genovese died on the way to the hospital.

As horrific as that is, there is more to the story. See, there were people who saw Moseley attacking Genovese, who heard her cries for help. And no one went to her aid. Shortly after the murder, the New York Times reported that “38 respectable, law‐abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman” but did nothing.

The newspaper has since noted that the original report exaggerated the number of people who heard Genovese calling for help and that many of them didn’t actually witness the attack in its entirety. In its obituary for Mosely, the Times reported:

Winston Mosely

Winston Mosely

“While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling … And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived.”

Still, Genovese’s death prompted behavioral scientists to begin studying what they called “diffusion of responsibility” and “the bystander effect.” In essence, they said, contrary to what you might expect, having a large number of witnesses to such an incident makes it less likely that anyone will actually step up to help because, quite simply, everyone thinks someone else will.

But too often, no one does. No one did in Kitty Genovese’s case.

It’s a horrific story, isn’t it? A young woman dying because no one would step up to help. But there’s more to it still — and the part that no one talks about makes it all an even greater tragedy.

See, Kitty Genovese was a lesbian. She had a partner, Mary Ann Zielonko. But that has all been mostly erased from the history books, from the books and the plays and the songs and the movies that have been written about Genovese’s death. No one wanted her sexual orientation to “distract” from whatever points they were trying to make with her death.

Instead of being treated as the dead woman’s spouse, instead of being given the respect that any straight widow would have been given, Zielonko was at first treated as a suspect — she told police the truth about her relationship with Genovese and they suspected she might have killed her love in a jealous rage — and then ignored by investigators and prosecutors.

They didn’t want to distract from their case.

Zielonko, for her part, didn’t talk about it all for a very long time. After all, back in 1964, homosexuality was illegal, and LGBT people had to hide their true selves from just about everyone — family, co-workers, society at large. Better to bear the sorrow alone than to risk coming out.

Mary Ann Zielonko had to hide the true depth of her grief, had to pretend that the woman who died was just her friend, not the love of her life. She had to let her own identity and the identity of the woman she loved be glossed over and ignored because they lived — and Kitty Genovese died — during a time when their love made them outlaws, hated and, often, discarded.

Today, marriage equality is the law of the land in the United States, and same-sex couples can be legally married, with all the legal rights and responsibilities of their married heterosexual counterparts. Thanks to numerous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court — Lawrence v. Texas which overturned sodomy laws in 2003, Obergerfell v. Hodges which led to marriage equality last summer, and many more — LGBT Americans today enjoy more freedom and more legal protections from discrimination than ever before.

But even as we celebrate our victories, we have to remain always vigilant, always looking out for the knives aimed at our backs. You don’t have to look any further than North Carolina or Mississippi — where laws rolling back protections and giving bigots legal cover for their discrimination have passed within the last 30 days — to see how very fragile our progress is. And more states are lining up to do the same thing.

My point? We can’t rest on our laurels. We can’t think the war is over. Because the haters are out there, just waiting on us to let down our guard. We can’t let them steal equaity from us.

—  Tammye Nash

Colbert extradition hearing set for April 18


Christian Colbert

Christopher (Christian) Colbert’s extradition hearing from California to Texas will be held on April 18 in Los Angeles County Court.

According to a LA County Sheriff’s Department official, Colbert was picked up on a fugitive warrant. He is wanted in Texas for murder as well as identity theft and theft of property changes. The April 18 hearing could send Colbert back to Dallas as soon as Dallas Police can pick him up, or if Colbert decides to fight the extradition, a later hearing date will be held.

The sheriff’s department official said that when police pick someone up on a fugitive warrant, extradition to another state is inevitable. She didn’t have a list of charges against him and said California has no interest in holding him. His return to Texas is simply a matter of time.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Dallas police confirm murder charges against Colbert

Christopher Brian Colbert

Christopher Brian Colbert

Dallas police have confirmed that Christopher Brian (Christian) Colbert has been charged with murder in connection with the death last April of Ronald David Shumway.

Colbert is still jailed in Los Angeles on the original charges of tampering with a governmental record, securing execution of a document by deception and money laundering. Murder charges were added after Colbert “waived his rights and spoke with” Dallas Homicide Detective Montenegro and Financial Crimes Detective LaFleur, who had flown to L.A. to talk to the suspect, according to a statement just issued by Dallas police.

Colbert’s bond on all four charges is set at $150,000. Dallas police are working to have him extradited back to Texas.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Colbert arrested in Los Angeles

Screen shot 2016-02-29 at 11.32.10 AM

Christopher Brian Colbert

Dallas Police announced today (Thursday, March 3) that murder suspect Christopher Brian Colbert has been arrested in Los Angeles and is being held there awaiting extradition.

Colbert was arrested on warrants for tampering with a governmental record, securing execution of a document by deception and money laundering. He is also a suspect in the murder of Dallas gay man Ronald David Shumway.

Shumway, 57, was last seen alive in April 2015, shortly before his supervisors at Dallas Area Rapid Transit received an email purported to be from Shumway in which he resigned his job as a DART driver. His home at 725 N. Winnetka Ave. was then put up for sale and a man claiming to be Shumway appeared at the closing for the sale of the home in June, although he did not have his ID with him, faxing an altered copy of Shumway’s driver’s license to the office later on.

The new owner of the house on Winnetka found the unidentified torso of a man in a plastic bag beneath a concrete slab in the backyard of the house in September, prompting police to launch a search for Shumway. Because of posts made to his Facebook account after he supposedly resigned from his job, police believed Shumway had moved to Austin to live with a man he met online.

Investigators determined in February, through DNA testing, that the remains found in the backyard were, in fact, Shumway’s, and that’s when their attention turned to Colbert. Witnesses identified Colbert as the man who had represented himself as Shumway at the real estate deal closing last June, and police issued warrants for his arrest.

—  Tammye Nash