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

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

Woman, 71, arrested for anti-gay hate crime

Wanda Derby

A 71-year-old woman is facing hate crime charges after she allegedly beat and choked her neighbor with her cane, called him a “faggot” and said she thought he had AIDS and would give it to her son, officials said.

Wanda Derby and her son were “having issues” when he decided to move in with the family next door Wednesday night in the 3200 block of Ash Park in Richland Hills, Detective Tye Bell with Richland Hills police said.

When a 25-year-old neighbor came over to help her son move, Bell said she allegedly struck him several times and choked him.

“I guess she got enraged and she just started whooping him with a cane,” Bell said.

Bell said the man suffered bruises to his body and neck but was treated at the scene by Richland Hills police.

Derby allegedly struck the man’s mother when she came to help him and tried to call police. Bell said the man did not fight Derby because she is 71 and he did not want to harm her.

She was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that could be enhanced as a hate crime because she called the man “faggot” several times when talking to police and told them that he had AIDS and would give it to her son, Bell said.

“Her statements were very biased toward sexual preference and that gave us the probable cause to file that as a hate crime,” Bell said.

—  Anna Waugh