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The LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Daniel Fetty

This entry is part 21 of 53 in the series lgbt hate crimes project

One of the reasons I started The LGBT Hate Crimes Project was to document hate crimes that didn’t make national headlines, or get much notice beyond the local areas where they happened; the ones that tend to disappear into newpaper archives that no one can see without paying for the privilege. In fact, I’ve tried to make those cases a priority. That’s why I’ve yet to write up entries on Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, or Gwen Araujo. Not because what happened to them is less important than others, but because you don’t have to go very far to find information about them and the crimes against them. Entire movies have been made about them — The Laramie Project, A Girl Like Me, and of course Boys Don’t Cry.

But who’s going to make a movie about Daniel Fetty? Like some others, the story of what happened to Daniel Fetty — how he ended up beaten, stripped naked, and tossed in dumpster (like so much garbage) — was one I hadn’t heard until it was brought to my attention by Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin. When I read Jim’s account of Fetty’s murder, and why it was missing from FBI hate crime statistics

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“One of the things that is really frustrating about this case is that not a lot of people have been paying attention to it,” commented Ms. McCauley. “Daniel was not a poster boy.” She compared Daniel Fetty’s case to that of Matthew Shepard, in which a young, good-looking, middle-class college student was beaten senseless and tied to a fence in Wyoming. Because Daniel was not young and attractive, she feared that his murder wouldn’t become a rallying cry, as has happened with Matthew Shepard’s case.

Alicia Purdy, Daniel’s friend and former roommate, simply said, “Dano was not just any ‘gay man.’ He was a brother, a son, a grandson, and a beloved friend.”

Daniel Fetty deserves to be counted.

I’d extend that to say that Daniel Fetty deserves to be counted because Daniel Fetty counted; because, like everyone whose case I’ve written about thus far, his life mattered to someone — he was someone’s brother, son, grandson and friend just as everyone else on the long and growing list. His life mattered because it was a human life, like everyone else’s. Period.

But so much of fighting for equality seems to count on the task of proving our humanity — a degrading task in and of itself — and thus worthy of human treatment instead of being treated like so much human garbage, which is essentially how Daniel Fetty was treated by his attackers.

Daniel Fetty (1966 – October 2, 2004) was a hearing-impaired, homeless gay man in Waverly, Ohio. On October 2, 2004, he was attacked by Martin Baxter, Matthew Ferman, and James Trent Jr. Fetty was beaten with bricks, bottles, boards, stripped naked and thrown into a dumpster. Fetty died in a hospital 12 hours after being found by police. His murder was prosecuted as a hate crime.

Background
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Fetty, 38, became homeless when his apartment was destroyed by fire. At the time he was attacked, Fetty was living in his car.1) He had begun working at Emmitt House, a local bar and restaurant, to save money for a new apartment.2)

On Friday, October 2, 2004 Fetty went to the Canal Pub in Waverly, OH. Baxter, 28, and Ferman, 22, were there as well, and Ferman got into an argument with Fetty, accusing Fetty of stealing a pack of cigarettes that he’d let on a table with money stuck under the cellophane. Outside the bar, Ferman was nicer to Fetty, even offering to sell him some marijuana.3)

The Attack

Once outside, Ferman led Fetty across the street, to a parking lot behind a building, where he hit Fetty over the head with a beer bottle.

Ferman later said that Trent hit Fetty with a stick after he fell to the ground. Trent, 19, later told police that he was walking by when he heard Baxter call to him. Baxter then showed him Fetty, nude and unconscious in the garbage bin, and jumped up and down on Fetty while Ferman poked him with a piece of wood.4)

Plea agreements for that Ferman, Baxter, and Trent would ultimately prevent the details of the attack from being fully revealed in court. However, Fetty’s mother – Juanita Meek – would speak at Baxter’s plea hearing, and catalog her son’s injuries5):

“You put out both his eyes, broke his nose, knocked out his teeth, broke his Adam’s apple, broke his neck, broke all but one of his ribs and punctured his heart and lungs.”

Discovery & Death

Police were summoned to investigate a fight, and upon arriving on the scene at about 1:00 a.m., an officer spotted Baxter, Ferman, and Trent run behind a building. Upon investigation, the officer discovered Fetty – nude, beaten, and unconscious – in the dumpster.6) Fetty’s car was found nearby. The week’s worth of wages he had just been paid was missing, leading police to initially call the incident a robbery.7)

Fetty was taken to Pike Community Hospital, and then flow to Grant Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He died around 1:00 p.m. the next day.

Baxter, Ferman and Trent were arrested within hours of the police being called. They were arraigned on October 4, and bond was set at $1 million each.8)

Aftermath

Hate Crime

On Wednesday, December 8, 2004, prosecutor Rob Junk presented new evidence to a special session of the grand jury, resulting in hate crime charges being added to the aggravated murder charges Baxter and Ferman were facing.9) Junk said that the fact that Fetty had been stripped naked and the severity of the beating led his his office to consider all possible motivations10), though Ohio does not have a hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation.11)

Baxter – who said that he’d been drinking and doing cocaine that night – told a reporter that the attack on Fetty had been carried out by Trent and Ferman, over the missing pack of cigarettes, and not because of Fetty’s sexual orientation.12)

Pleas & Sentencing

On December 6, 2004, Trent was convicted of voluntary manslaughter,13) and negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for testifying against Baxter and Ferman.14) He received a seven year sentence.15)

On December 10, 2004, Baxter and Ferman were charged with capitol murder in addition to being re-indicted on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and tampering with evidence. The new charges meant that both men could receive the death penalty. Both pleaded not guilty. The trials, set to begin on December 13, were delayed until December 27, so that public defenders certified in death penalty cases could be brought on to defend them.16)

On September 23, 2004, Baxter pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and received a life sentence, with eligibility for parole in 20 years.17) When Fetty’s mother, Meeks, spoke to Baxter during his hearing and asked if her son had begged for his life, Baxter laughed.18)

On November 3, 2004, Ferman accepted a plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and tampering with evidence, and received sentences of 15 years for the murder charge and three years for the tampering charge, making him eligible for in 18 years.Ferman’s plea meant that his trial – scheduled for January 9, 2005 – would not take place, and a detailed account of Fetty’s murder would not be heard in court.19)

Series NavigationThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: James MaestasThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: State of the Project

3 Comments

  1. I want to thank you so much for keeping Daniel’s memory alive. My hometown is just twenty miles from Waverly where Daniel was murdered, which is why his story was so compelling to me.

    Thank you for a job well done.

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Howard_(murder_victim)

    Terrence, thank you for your series- these are mportant stories and should not be forgotten. I’m sending a link to the story of Charlie Howard; I didn’t know him, but he was just a few years older than me and his death has reasonated with many for years.

    When he died, I was attending college in Bangor and was horrified- not only with the insane cruelty of the act, but in the ease with my father and his drinking pals’ ability to make light of it. Joking that gays in Bangor were now walking hand-in-hand, wearing orange lifejackets.

    I moved away as fast as I could from the bigotry and hatred.

    Thanks… I’ve read your blog for quite awhile (found via Pandagon and Pam Spaulding) and appreciate your site very much.

  3. Thank you for clarifying the sentiments as I had intended. It disturbed me that the attack against my friend was not counted as a “hate crime” and it bothered me even more that people could overlook what happened to him. Everyone is someone to somebody. We all should count.

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