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DOSSIER


The following are mostly photographs, but also a few links and texts, which should be considered integral to American Honor Killings. I’ve arranged the dossier so the material matches up to the chapters of the book (except the last, the conclusion, which needs no illustration. Instead, I’ve put a Reader’s Guide at the end.) The items can’t stand alone and in many instances won’t make complete sense without reference to the book. Yet, besides adding visual and documentary depth to the story (“surface” might be a better word), there are details in the accompanying commentary that didn’t make it into print.

I’ve listed an abbreviated table of contents first for orientation. Then photographs, commentary and other material have been posted chapter by chapter.


American Honor Killings

Contents

1. Introduction: Species and Reality

2. Matson, Mowder, and the Williams Brothers, 1999

3. Bad-Good, Not Good

4. Domer, Qualls, and Madden, 2007

5. A Pretty Mouth

6. Parrish, Rawlings, Hollis, and Flythe, 2008

7. Gangs and Loners

8. Weber and Katehis, 2009



for Chapter 1/​Introduction: Species and Reality


Besides introducing the entire subject of men killing men where a sexual issue was at play, and doing it in the most open-ended way possible so that what I write will be more a window on the world than a political argument, I also briefly review the famous “Jenny Jones” case from 1995. This was one of the early, galvanizing “gay panic” cases.

Here’s Scott Amedure, the victim, by all accounts a friendly, outgoing guy. Ex-military. I don’t know the provenance of this photo, but it’s the most widespread and was probably provided to newspapers/TV by friends or family at the time. To me, Scott looks a bit younger here than in the screen shots from the Jenny Jones Show.

Below is a picture of the killer, Jonathan Schmitz, in court. It captures his striking looks but not his green eyes. This picture and the following shots from the Jenny Jones show all originally appeared on Court TV, which covered the trials extensively. Court TV is now part of TruTV.


Here are three interesting shots that epitomize the action on the fateful Jenny Jones “Secret Admirer” show that was never broadcast.

First Scott and his friend Donna Riley are brought on and seated together. Scott tells the story about how he first met Jonathan when Jonathan was trying to fix Donna’s car.

This is the moment of truth after Jonathan is called onstage by Jenny Jones. His first, almost inaudible, words are, “You lied to me.” About a week earlier he’d asked Donna and Scott whether Scott was his “secret admirer” and was told No. But the two men embrace—sort of—to the audience’s voluble pleasure.

Jonathan then sits and covers his face with his hands in what appears to be good-natured surprise and embarrassment. He tells Jenny he’s definitely not gay. As you can see in this shot, he doesn’t appear upset. He was a tightly wound young man, however, and a lot must have been going on in his head between this moment and the killing several days later. Note the collarless shirt he’s wearing. One of his first complaints after the show was that he’d wasted “six hundred dollars” on new clothes. Much earlier, while shopping for these TV clothes with a co-worker, Kelly Glenn, he mentioned to her that if the “secret admirer” turned out to be his ex-girlfriend Kristen Joyce, as he dearly wished, he could see proposing to her on air.

Finally, this is a more recent (2008) photograph of Jonathan from the Michigan Department of Corrections. He’s obviously changed greatly and adopted prison style to some degree.



for Chapter 2/​Matson, Mowder and the Williams Brothers, 1999


Here (below) is a shot of the lovely countryside around Sutter Buttes near where Matthew and Tyler Williams were raised. Below the photo is a watercolor view of Sutter Buttes painted by Sally Donner Williams, the boys’ mother. She took up painting around the time Matthew returned from the Navy in Seattle. His daughter was born out of wedlock there (to the Williams family, "out of wedlock" mattered a great deal). Sally had a website devoted to her paintings of flowers, chickens, fish, landscapes and more until relatively recently.



This is a painting Sally Williams posted on her website along with a rather mysterious note about her family. “Monterey Cypress near Seal Rock near San Francisco. From a family trip there. The birds make me weep; one is joining two others after a long absence, winging their way together. Like the reunion of all our loved ones.” I don’t know when the painting was done, so I can’t guess what stage of her family’s tragic history she might be referring to.

Below are two shots of Matthew from his University days in Moscow, Idaho. He was majoring in Biology. They’re courtesy of Jeff Monroe. In one Matthew mugs as Groucho Marx at Monroe’s home. In the other he’s giving a reading of his poetry. (According to the poster behind him, he’s reading at “A night of the spoken word” at the Vandal Café, which identifies the scene as a University of Idaho campus building, since the school is home to the “Vandals.”)

I’ve studied these two pictures at length looking for some clue to Matthew’s emotionalism and increasingly wild ideas at the time, but I find them unremarkable, even impenetrable, except for the interesting fact that he’s “performing” in both of them.



Here’s the cover of Vulture in Eagle’s Clothing, Lynn Meredith’s anti-tax tract and one example of the many, many extremist fads Matthew took up during his time in Idaho. Meredith is now in federal prison, incidentally.

Here are some Glock handguns. One of these was Matthew’s favorite weapon, though it wasn’t used in the killings. He had it with him when he was in the Navy in Seattle. He had it in Idaho. Ann Monroe once found it hidden under his pillow when he was staying at her and Jeff’s house in Moscow. Jeff was outraged. Matthew also had the Glock with him when he was arrested.

These are shots of the fire-bomb damage to the B’nai Israel library from a tenth anniversary issue of the congregation newsletter, Koleinu. This was Matthew and Tyler’s first attack. For a while services had to be held in a courtyard. Synagogues from all over the country contributed books to reconstitute the congregation’s lost library. The third picture shows the restoration.




This Sacramento Bee photograph shows an ATF agent examining the garbage bin where Matthew threw his last Molotov cocktail the night he and Tyler attacked a Medical Center that housed an abortion clinic. One reason investigators were slow to connect this attack to the synagogue attacks and to the murders was that jurisdictions didn’t overlap. Local police handled the murders, the FBI dealt with the synagogue fire-bombings and the ATF was called in on this case in which insurance fraud was briefly suspected.

The victims (below), Gary Matson (AP photo) and Winfield Mowder. From an obituary of Gary in Fremontia, a local horticultural newsletter: “Throughout his life Gary was a teacher. Besides his popular classes at Shasta College, he led hundreds of field trips and nature walks . . . Going on a casual hike with him was an adventure; inevitably one would learn something new. He was a teacher at all levels. For many years he made time to roam the Trinity Alps with a noted Dutch botanist. He maintained correspondence with plant specialists all over the world, and his expertise was sought by many horticultural and botanical professionals in the region. One of his unfinished projects was a field guide to the native flora of the area.”



And here are newspaper photographs of Matthew and Tyler. These were posted on Salon to accompany Sam Stanton and Gary Delsohn’s excellent article on the case. A link to the Salon article is below the photographs.



This is a picture of the Shasta County Jail where Matthew and Tyler were transferred and held for the murders after pleading guilty to the federal charges in Sacramento. Matthew made an escape attempt with Paul Gordon Smith Jr. Matthew was afterwards moved to “AdSeg” (Administrative Segregation) where he killed himself.

This is an interesting PDF of an article by Faye Springer of the Sacramento DA’s office reviewing forensic evidence in the case. Note that Matthew and Tyler are referred to by their “proper” names “Benjamin Matthew Williams” and “James Tyler Williams.”

Below is a legal summary of events connected with the escape excerpted from an unrelated appeal of his own death sentence by Paul Gordon Smith Jr. (Please excuse the poor image quality. You'll have to click to expand each page to make it legible. And, again, Matthew’s “proper” name “Benjamin” is used.)




The incredible drain cover weapon Matthew constructed in haste in the shower before the attack on Timothy Renault and the attempted escape. (Please excuse the poor image quality and the blood.)

Here’s a picture of the kind of cell sink/toilet behind which Matthew’s body was found.

Before his death Matthew engaged in a voluminous correspondence from prison. He wrote many letters to newspapers. The following drawings were (I think) sent to R. Downey who, along with Garth Powell, compiled a collection of “letters and artwork from folks in the BIG HOUSE,” especially notorious killers. Playroom Press published the collection as Manson Family Picnic. (There’s now a Brooklyn Band with the same name.) I found Matthew's pictures among those posted on the book’s website, mansonfamilypicnic.com, and I've linked below to that site and to the book on Amazon.


I’ve studied these drawings of Matthew's in detail and have looked up every reference I can make out. They’re an incredible window into his confused, hyper-allusive engagement with the world.

(Below, click to expand) In “The Destruction of the Magog MATRIX” I’ll simply note that Satan looms at the vanishing point, and the clusters of buildings seem to represent “Jewish” New York, “Catholic” Rome, some Islamic capital, Moscow and two others, one generically labeled “State Churches.” The levitating pyramid, which bears allusions to the Tabernacle, flames with the Tetragrammaton YHWH (in English letters) meaning Yahweh. The spiky objects floating around the “matrix” look a lot like the diagrams of anti-bodies often published in articles about AIDS at the time (1999). The meteoric little triangle or pyramid is labeled “Dan 2.44,” a verse which reads in the King James Version: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” The drawing is a fantasia of symbolism too personal to signify anything clearly.


(Below, click to expand) Here Matthew has written (with hints of racist typography) song lyrics from Nine Inch Nails and RaHoWa as well as an Ayn Rand quotation (from Dagny Taggard in Atlas Shrugged) along with musical notes—indicating it, too, should be sung? The computer mouse-like/​spermatozoon design is indecipherable to me. Is it a bomb containing Uranium 239 and a cross? Matthew did attend the Navy’s “Nuke School” in Florida.


This picture shows how Matthew, who’d started going by “Ben” in prison, turned his own signature into an arcane allusion. Note that he signed "The Destruction of the Magog MATRIX" “Benjamin XIV Williams.” “Matthew XIV” doesn’t seem pertinent. Revelations XIV.12 reads (KJV): “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”


for Chapter 3/​Bad-Good, Not Good


This brief chapter alludes to the Shangri-las, in particular, their lyric, “He’s good bad, not evil.” Oddly enough, the song Leader of the Pack was briefly banned by the BBC for promoting motorcycle gang culture.

I mention the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” finally passed and signed by President Obama. Here’s a Senate Version of the bill back when it was known as “The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” It’s substantially the same as the final bill.


for Chapter 4/​Domer, Qualls and Madden 2007


This is a picture of Darrell Lynn Madden, Chaos Squad General, gang traitor and murderer. It’s an Oklahoma Department of Corrections photograph from December 2005, taken after Darrell was arrested for impersonating a police officer. It’s very difficult to imagine how different he looks today with very long hair and many tattoos he says he’d like to have covered up.


This Department of Corrections picture was taken following his repatriation after an internet fraud and a wild flight to Mexico with a friend. It’s from later the same year.

Below is Madden as he looked after his capture for the murder of Bradley Qualls, his partner in crime. Note the black sling. Darrell’s right shoulder was hit during a shootout and his radial nerve severed. He underwent seven surgeries but still has only limited use of his arm. Also notice the many additional tattoos he got in prison after the Mexican interlude. Some of them are specifically related to Chaos Squad. Though Darrell already had some tattoos which aren’t visible in the photographs above, a description and complete list of body marks by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections now reads as follows (NCIC stands for “National Crime Information Center” which keeps standardized lists of body marks and tattoos):

White Male; 5 ft. 9 in. tall; 170 pounds; Brown hair; Green eyes;

Body Marks

HEAD: TAT C BACK BURNING SPADE
SC L ARM: NCIC GUNSHOT WOUND
SHL: TAT R TRIBAL BAND
TAT BACK: NCIC "NEO NAZI", SWASTIKA
TAT CHEST: NCIC "GOD'S GRACE IS THE WHITE RACE", NAZI EAGLE
TAT L ARM: NCIC "HEAD"
TAT L CALF: NCIC SYMBOL, SKULL
TAT L LEG: NCIC COVERUP, PENTAGRAM
TAT LF ARM: NCIC IRON CROSS, FLAMES, EYES
TAT NECK: NCIC "SO CAL", "KI SQUAD SKINHEAD", "SS"
TAT R ARM: NCIC "HEAD", SKULL, "666", IRON CROSS
TAT R CALF: NCIC CLOWN
TAT R CHK: NCIC TEARDROP
TAT R LEG: NCIC CLOWN
TAT R SHLD: NCIC SWASTIKA


Here’s a closer view of Darrell during the trial for Steve Domer’s murder (below). You can make out “Skin Head” on his eyebrows and the teardrop “wet and lined” on the right side, which he explained stood for a gang murder.


Here’s Badley Qualls, the man Darrell was inducting as a “foot soldier” in Chaos Squad and whom he later murdered. This picture is from a prison stint of Bradley’s a few years before he met Darrell. He eventually got his own “Skin Head” tattoo across his eyebrows, exactly like Darrell’s. It was just a day or so before he was killed, and the tattoo resulted in a staph infection.

And here (below) is Steve Domer, the man Bradley and Darrell kidnapped, beat and murdered. The murder was supposed to be Bradley’s gang initiation. Steve’s brother, Mort, recalls that Steve was rather tall and on the trim side. This photo may give the misleading impression that Steve was heavier than he was.


The picture below shows Darrell in court during the trial for murdering the man he now calls “Mr. Domer.” Susan Domer, the victim’s cousin, wrote an article for the Fort Wayne Reader in 2009, while she was performing, ironically, the part of Sister Prejean in Dead Man Walking. Her interesting article discusses Darrell at length and reads in part: “Forgive?!? I can’t see that happening for me. I cannot see me extending the gift of forgiveness to someone so contemptible. And now, I’m confronted with this pesky forgiveness dilemma every night at rehearsal for the play Dead Man Walking . . .” Later she writes about the remarkable denouement of the trial: “And then in Oct. 2008, in a courtroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, he decided to own up to his role in Steven Domer’s death. He was actually participating in his own redemption. Just when the family was hunkering down for a trial of denial, he turned the tables on us. Darrell Madden surprised everyone; the judge, the prosecutor, our family and the media by confessing to the murder of Steven Domer. Mort Domer, Steven’s brother refused to allow Madden to plead guilty until they sat down across the table from each other. Seasoned, jaded, law enforcement officials stood around slack-jawed as Darrell Madden answered all of Mort’s questions about the murder. All of Oklahoma City watched in amazement as these two men talked about the details of Steven Domer’s murder, with the event topping the evening news throughout the region.” Susan, however, writes that she’s still not ready to forgive. There's a link to her article below the photo.


Now, going back a couple of lifetimes, this is a picture of Darrell, at about eighteen, in Griffith Park, Los Angeles. When I sent it to him he said he remembered the occasion well, a photo shoot for a magazine called In Touch.

Here’s what the picture was ultimately used for—the cover of one of Darrell’s porn films.


Here are the covers of two other films Darrell starred in. “Billy Houston” was Darrell’s porn name. The Devil and Danny Webster (left) was his first picture. Though he looks heart-breakingly young in it, he asserts that when the film was made he’d already murdered a man in Houston, Texas, where he’d first become enamored of skinheads.



for Chapter 5/​A Pretty Mouth


After a general discussion of some notions of masculinity and sexual anxiety, this chapter turns to a review of the murder of Billy Jack Gaither back in 1999. Coming on the heels of Matthew Shepard’s murder and that of James Byrd Jr., this case got a great deal of attention, including a Presidential statement (Clinton) and an excellent documentary by Frontline. PBS still maintains web pages for this show, “Assault on Gay America,” and they are full of information and resources related to the case.

First, this studio portrait of Billy Jack was widely disseminated after his murder (below).


Billy Jack’s very unequal killers were the domineering ex-con Steven Eric Mullins (below, top) and the star-struck kid, Charles Monroe Butler, known as Charelsy (below, bottom). (These mug shots are very low quality, but pictures of the pair are hard to come by. The one of Charlesy is credited “CNN/​FILE.”)



This is how the trailer Steve was staying in at the time looks today (below). Steve lived here with Charlesy’s half brother through whom the two met. After nearly killing Billy Jack in the Talladega National Forest, they drove him here, collected some gear and headed to Peckerwood Creek where Billy Jack came to and struggled. After Steve killed him “again,” the two burned his body.


This is a picture of The Tavern, “The Hottest Bar in Town.” Billy Jack and Steve originally met here, though they traveled in different circles and didn’t care to be seen together. They also came here the night of the murder. Billy Jack went in to collect on a small debt and chat. Steve waited in the car drinking a beer.

Next they went to The Frame, where Charelsy and his father were having a beer or playing pool after working jobs down in Birmingham. The Frame no longer exists. This picture is a shot from the Frontline documentary.

The three got into Billy’s car together. At some point during the evening there was a promise of sex. Steve says it was all planned beforehand. Charelsy denies it. They would have driven past Billy Jack’s church on the right where he sang in the choir. Here’s the church today (below). After stopping by Charlesy’s house, where the younger man cleaned up, they continued out along the Millerville Highway toward a series of small lakes called “the watersheds” in Talladega National Forest.


This is the sign—the only sign—along the Millerville Highway indicating a dirt road on the left that leads to the watersheds. You have to know they’re there. Below are shots of the red dirt road and the “T” where they turned right toward Lake Virginia.



The dirt roads in the forest become increasingly rough and winding. The group had to make another left to arrive at the remote boat ramp (below) where they stopped and got out of the car. Steve stabbed Billy Jack in the back. He then threw the knife into the water.


Further along the right bank of the river is the footing of the old bridge where Billy Jack came to and pushed Steve Mullins into the water. Steve beat him to death. Steve and Charlesy then burned Billy Jack's body on tires. ("Peckerwood" is an old African American term for woodpecker used somewhat as "cracker" or "white trash" are today. There's irony in the name, after all, just not phallic irony.)

Here's a haunted-looking image of Charlesy from his interview on the Frontline documentary.

A recent picture of Steve Mullins in prison in Alabama


for Chapter 6/​Parrish, Rawlings, Hollis and Flythe, 2008


This picture shows the parking lot and main entrance to Randallstown High School. Steven Parrish, the victim, Steven Hollis, his best childhood friend and eventually one of his murderers, as well as many other members of the 92 Family Swans, as they were to call themselves, went to school here. Randallstown is a middle class suburb, maybe a little too close to "gangsta" Baltimore for comfort.

Below is Steven Hollis’s family home, just a few blocks from school. The two Stevens often spent the night together here or at the Parrish home.


The Parrishes lived in a townhouse complex. Their unit (right) was all the way at the back abutting a park. This is where Steven Parrish had the fateful 18th birthday for himself. On the day Parrish was murdered, Steven Hollis waited by the door here. His old friend came out at the usual time on his way to driving school.

Right around the corner from the Parrish home, the last in a row of townhouses, was the dead end where the complex kept a garbage bin and where there was access to a path through the woods. (It starts at the dirt patch to the right of the garbage bin. The picture expands.) On the day of the murder Juan Flythe waited here for the two Stevens to show up.

Some ways into the woods—here, in fact (right)—Juan Flythe and Steven Hollis stabbed and beat their “friend” to death. He was heard screaming: “I didn’t do nothing!” The killers stripped his pants off, and laid a red handkerchief over his face as a sign of a gang murder.

Steven on a bus
Here are two shots of the victim, Steven Parrish. They must be from considerably before the murder, because he’s wearing a blue handkerchief in both--on the bus and (below) in what looks like a cell phone self-portrait. His gang color would later be red. Unfortunately, both shots are dim and hard to make out. (“RIP Steven” has been added to the second picture.)


Finally, this is the kind of picture we’ve all seen a thousand times on the local news, the High School portrait broadcast ever so briefly to illustrate some tragedy. To me the televised fleetingness of these images and their hokey, forgettable design make them seem more memento mori than memorial. Yet it’s a great picture of Steven.



for Chapter 7/​Gangs and Loners


First, a 1977 trial photograph of Leonardo Vitale, the “crazy Mafioso” whose story, unexpectedly, resonates with ideas and feelings about masculinity addressed in American Honor Killings. Next is a portrait of Vitale as a young man. (The first picture is from Wikipedia, which credits Franco Zecchin. The second is from the site linked to below.)




for Chapter 8/​Weber and Katehis, 2009


There’s an incredible wealth of online material related to the case of John Katehis. The people involved were all over the internet. Some of the many, many pictures of John were taken from MySpace and put up on Gawker a day or two after the murder. I spent a lot of time in John’s presence in Court and I think this picture captures something about him better than any other. It was taken after his arrest upstate. The sixteen-year-old had been driven back to Brooklyn and kept up all night making statements. His clothes were taken as evidence, so when he emerged from the station house he was wearing oversized clothing provided by the police. His upper lip is slightly swollen from a struggle during his capture.


Here he is at the same moment. Detective James Normile—later an important witness to the capture, the drive back to Brooklyn and the interrogation—leads him to a car.

Here’s John inside the station the night before. This is a screen shot, unfortunately tiny, from the DVD of John’s remarkable confession. Note the donut on the plate. The knife injury on his hand isn’t visible but you can see he’s holding his right forefinger bent stiffly. These were the clothes that were taken into evidence. During the DVD he mentions that he was wearing this very Harley jacket when he went over to George’s. Afraid of getting it bloody, he said he left carrying it and wore one of George’s instead.

Here’s a picture of John’s divorced parents, Spiro and Beth, at their son's arraignment. Spiro told me he was furious when this admittedly unflattering picture of him was published. He later trimmed his hair and became mistrustful, in particular, of the New York Post.

Here’s a happier image of father and son. The two shared an interest in Satanism and heavy metal music. Spiro claimed that the books on Satanism police later discovered were all his own.

John was living in a rental in this Queens house with his mother Beth, his younger sister and a mostly white cat named Fluffy. He attended a school for troubled kids in Westchester.

There are so many pictures of John I thought I’d post them in bunches. This first group emphasizes John’s kid-like side. The Satanic and “fuck you” ones wouldn’t necessarily be disturbing except in retrospect. The first one clearly shows his 666/​pentagram/​Diablo tattoo. Apparently, the one long arm of this pentagram makes it “properly” Satanic. The third picture shows what may be the Harley jacket he wore to George’s the night of the murder and in his DVD confession. Then there’s a series of self-portraits he posted as “greeksatan92” to vampirefreaks.com. (All the pictures expand.)












These pictures—the ones that disturbed Gawker readers and others so much—are of John showing off his knife collection. The first one shows the whole collection laid out. The next four with a blank television in the background seem to be from one photo session. His hair is shaved in the one taken in front of the door. (The last three will expand if you click on them.)







Finally, these three pictures (left and below; the two below will expand if you click on them; one seems to be from that same series in front of the TV) show John holding a particular knife. I’ve separated these out. This flip knife was missing from the collection police recovered and may have been the murder weapon, which was never found. John claimed that his victim pulled a certain kind of knife on him. He described it as a flip knife you can open with one hand, adding, “I have a nicer one.”



Here’s the victim, George Weber, a radio newsman known as “the news guy.” Lately, he’d had to struggle a bit for jobs and had started a blog. Next is a photo of him with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg from when George worked on the Mayor’s radio show. George’s connections in the media led to early accusations that his case was being given special treatment, even that John was being railroaded.



This strange picture of George’s leg covered with inflamed bed bug bites was posted to his blog by George himself the day before his murder. He wrote: “Many of you know, I have had two bouts with bed bugs in my over ten years at this location in Carroll Gardens, so my radar is always on when it comes to the blood sucking bastards that made my life hell. I'll never forget those sleepless nights of waking up to find red bumps all over my body, very much like what you're seeing in this photo. Just thinking of them makes me itch! Happily, and thanks to my landlord and a reputable exterminator, they no longer exist.” What’s so interesting is that George’s apartment was full of NIC bug powder. When John came over, he seemed to think or fantasize that the powder was vast amounts of loose Cocaine. He claimed that George plied him with the Cocaine, and that it made him so “jumpy” that he started “freaking out,” and that his drugged condition in part led to the murder.

Below is a shot of the street on Sunday, when the crime was discovered. George’s building is at the far left. One of the two street-facing windows of his parlor floor apartment is cut off in this picture.


Two pictures of George’s body being removed in a body bag. A long-time forensics expert said the crime scene was the most complex he’d ever worked. The amount of evidence--blood, prints, clothes, DNA, bandage wrappers, AXE body spray, rifled lunch boxes, spilled aspirin--was astounding.


Here’s John at a hearing with one of his lawyers from the first trial. That trial ended in a mistrial because a single juror couldn’t resolve her doubts about intent.

Well over a year later, this is a New York Post photo by Spencer Burnett that captures the moment John was sentenced to twenty-five to life (the maximum) after his second trial. John turned to look at his father. This picture doesn’t really capture John’s strange juvenile nervousness at that moment or his shrug, but it’s a good fit with the Post headline: “Grinning Killer to Rot in Prison.”


Talking Points/​Reader's Guide


1) Somewhat provocatively, the book identifies as “Honor Killings” murders conventionally known as “hate crimes” or “gay panic killings.” The usage appears to complicate understanding of these events. Why would the author introduce ambiguity into the description of acts about which there’s no ethical doubt that they’re wrong, even evil?

2) And where exactly is honor located in the various cases? It’s fairly clear that Steve Mullins felt his personal honor affronted by Billy Jack Gaither’s proposition. And the murder of Steven Parrish was prompted by a notion of “gang honor.” But in the other cases the honor motive is more obscure. The author suggests Darrell Madden acted with a certain unconscious sense of “dishonor.” What about the Williams brothers or John Katehis? Were they simply insane, or did their actions play off a broader cultural conception of honor?

3) The book concentrates on the dark heart of violence in young men. But unquestionably most of the killers are to some degree sociopathic or otherwise psychologically damaged. So what’s the relevance of the stories to the rest of us and to society?

4) The book’s emphasis is on the killers. Is it possible to imagine a way to heal or tame the violence and anger of these men? How could they have been raised or educated differently? Is it even possible to derive practical or political conclusions from stories so full of specific detail and paradox?

5) It’s uncomfortable to identify with the people described in this book, but should we? Do we? The author briefly mentions his own identification both with Darrell Madden and Madden’s victim Steve Domer. What can a reader get out of experiencing such feelings?

6) Who’s really gay or bisexual or straight? The author says that Steve Mullins now identifies himself as “bisexual” but adds that one of Mullins’ friends considers the killer “basically straight” because his bisexuality doesn’t appear “innate.” Are there two kinds of sexuality corresponding roughly to the “genotype” and “phenotype” of biologists, that is, inborn and expressed? Is one more privileged than the other?

7) The sexual roles of top and bottom form a ground bass to many people’s notions of masculinity (often treated as winner/​loser or strong/​weak). Does moral content inhere in either role? Is one or the other good or bad? Why?

8) The writer comes to these stories from a literary viewpoint, not that of an activist or of a gender studies or gay studies academic. How might the treatment of an academic or activist have differed? And what does his perspective have to offer academics and activists?

9) The author seems to follow the pattern of legal “case histories,” one enriched by literary technique, in recounting these crimes. Is his tone the legal pose of objectivity or classic artistic coldness? Do the author’s opinions or prejudices eke through in places? Does he seem an honest broker? Do you feel able to make your own judgments about what happened?

10) Masculinity or ideas of masculinity are key to the events described in the book. Will women and men have fundamentally different readings of these cases? Gay and straight people?

11) Is there a real relationship between sex and violence or is it just a resemblance? Recent studies show the human brain processes simile and metaphor quite differently. Scientists were amazed to see widely separated parts of the brain become active when a person hears, for example, “The snow is sugar” and “The snow is like sugar.” What might happen if we tried the experiment using the words “sex” and “violence?”

12) Because the book concentrates on the link between ideas of sex and violence in a purely masculine context, all the cases involve gay victims or victims thought to be gay. But the violence described could easily have been visited on members of any out-group, Jews, African-Americans. To what extent does youthful masculine violence seem directed at a particular group and to what extent is it simply explosive?

Selected Works

Nonfiction
Together with a Reader's Guide
Novels
PDC, 2003

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