Appeals court rejects ‘homophobic panic’ claim

Lawyers for Robert Van Hook, convicted of murdering gay man in 1985, told court psychological reports could have supported his claims of mental disease


Robert Van-Hook

LISA CORNWELL  |  Associated Press

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court on Tuesday, Oct. 4 upheld an Ohio man’s death penalty for killing a man he met in a gay bar in 1985, rejecting claims that prosecutors violated his rights by not providing psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding the death penalty for Robert Van Hook, 51. The panel also rejected claims of ineffective counsel.

Van Hook’s attorney, Keith Yeazel, said Tuesday that he will either appeal to the full 6th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court after he has a chance to review the ruling.

The Supreme Court in November 2009 reversed an earlier decision by the 6th Circuit panel that had found ineffective trial counsel, and the panel said Tuesday that it was bound by the high court’s decision.

Van Hook’s latest appeal argued that the psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic,” or rejection of his homosexual urges, rather than robbery, could have been used to support his claim of mental disease. The reports also would have been used to counter the murder element of “specific intent to cause the death of another person” and the aggravated robbery factor contributing to the death penalty, the appeal stated.

Van Hook claimed temporary insanity, but never denied strangling and then stabbing David Self to death at his Cincinnati apartment.

Prosecutors said he lured Self to the apartment with the intention of robbing him. He then mutilated Self’s body with a kitchen knife, hiding the murder weapon in the corpse before fleeing to Florida, where he was arrested and confessed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Former Dallas man murdered in Mexico

Authorities say teenage brothers have confessed to robbing and killing Allan Turnipseed in his home

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Former Dallas resident Robert Allan Turnipseed, 62, was found murdered in his home in Colonia Riberas del Pilar, Lago Chapala, Mexico on Jan. 6. His partner, Bob Tennison, found the body.

Two teenage brothers, ages 16 and 17, have been arrested and have confessed to the murder, according to reports in Mexican newspapers.

Newspaper reports say Tennison found his partner’s body lying face down in a hall in their house, with his hands tied behind his back with electrical cord. He had been shot once in the back of the head.

The teenagers stole money from a safe in the house and escaped with the couple’s Toyota pickup with Texas license plates, according to reports.

Turnipseed’s Jalisco driver’s license was found on a street in Chapala the day of the murder. The truck was found abandoned outside of town near Lago Chapala two days later. The teens were arrested on Jan. 11.

Other expatriates who lived in the area knew the teens and helped identify the pair as suspects. The brothers reportedly hold American citizenship and were abandoned by their parents. The parents have not been located.

Turnipseed and Tennison had met the two teenagers recently, but didn’t know their troubled history, according to newspaper reports, which said a friend of theirs had given the brothers food and shelter.

After the teens’ arrest, the older brother confessed to the murder and said they killed Turnipseed after he threatened to turn them in to the police. The older brother told police that they pushed their way into the house and coerced him to open the safe. Then they tied him up and ransacked the house.

After the murder, the brothers went on a spending spree. They had purchased food, clothing, sneakers and marijuana with the stolen money. They were arrested with the murder weapon in their possession.

If convicted, they would be sentenced to juvenile correction.

The town of Chapala is located about 30 miles south of Guadalajara.

Before moving to Mexico, Turnipseed and Tennison lived in Uptown in Dallas. Turnipseed was born in Calgary, Alberta and grew up in Dallas. He was a graduate of University of Texas at Arlington.

Turnipseed wrote the newsletter for the Stonewall Professional and Business Association for several years.

He and Tennison moved to Mexico in 2004. The couple had been together more than 40 years.

The story was compiled based on reports in the Guadalajara Reporter and the Lago Chapala Crime Watch.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright