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The LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Kenneth Cummings Jr.

This entry is part 25 of 53 in the series lgbt hate crimes project

I don’t remember where I heard it, but when I was growing up I remember hearing and “old wives’ tale” about reading the bible, and it was basically that if you read the bible from beginning to end, you’ll go insane. Now, I don’t remember why you’d go insane. Maybe if you read it all the way through in one sitting, you’re so sleep deprived by the time you get to Revelations that you’re already hallucinating and the imagery drives you over the edge. Or maybe it’s the effort of dealing with all the contradictions, and convincing yourself that there are no contradictions, that maintaining that cognitive dissonance is enough to drive you crazy. And in some cases, crazy enough to kill.

But how crazy is that? How many people get that crazy? And do they get crazy enough to kill? Yes, at least a few of them do. The men who killed Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder were that crazy. But they also believed that they were “obeying God’s law” and that the bible told them it was right.

But Williams insists that because the Bible holds that homosexuality is a sin that must be punished by death, the responsibility for the slayings rests with the victims.

“You obey a government of man until there is a conflict,” Williams said. “Then you obey a higher law.”

“It’s part of the faith,” he added. “So many people claim to be Christians and complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they’re not willing to do anything about it. They don’t have the guts.”

Matthew Williams had “the guts” when he killed Matson and Mowder. And Terry Mangum had “the guts” when he killed Kenneth Cummings Jr., because God told him to, because Kenneth Cummings was gay.

And what does the Bible have to do with it?

“Many of these people are influenced by Bible passages that they perceive to give them complete license to murder gays because it’s a sin, and that’s how the twisted minds of these people work,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center on Hate and Extremism, a California group.

And the ability of hate groups to influence people like Matthew Williams rests solely on getting their message out and hoping it sticks to someone.

“This is a theme that’s been going on for several years, and we’re in the middle of it,” Levin said. “The Williams brothers were targeted by hate mongerers who probably didn’t even know who they were.

“But they knew that out in the ether of society floating around were these violent young people with violent tendencies, and this is what you get. You want to get these twisted, violent, unaffiliated people to carry out the goals of your philosophy. You don’t mind having blood on your hands, you just don’t want your fingerprints on it.”

That sounds vaguely like what Mel White said in the wake of Cummings’ murder. And he should know, because he spend years putting words in the mouths of the very same people.

“This is outrageous,” said Mel White, a gay former evangelical Protestant minister, who ghostwrote books for televangelists Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham.

“You’ve got to indict everybody from [Pope] Benedict XVI on down. The church and the Christian right have set up an environment that gays are a threat to the community, and they say this over and over,” White said to ABC News.

White says that his book “Religion Gone Bad: Hidden Dangers From the Christian Right” has 450 footnote references to anti-gay rhetoric from Christian leaders like the ones he used to work for.

“And because some people take this seriously, you have murders like this,” White said. “This guy is quoting from the rhetoric of the pope and Pat Robertson and the Southern Baptists.”

What kind of words? And where does it all lead?

God’s Justice? That’s what Terry Mangum says he delivered to Kenneth Cummings Jr.

2001767258096780359 RsKevin Cummings Jr. (1961 – June 4, 2007) a gay man from Pearland, TX, was last seen alive on June 4, 2007. Terry Mangum, 26, was arrested and later confessed to stabbing Cummings to death after luring him from a gay bar. Mangum said he had gone out intending to target a gay man.

Background

Cummings lived alone on the 1100 block of Sussex, in Pearland’s Southdown subdivision.1) He worked as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, where he was employed for 24 years. He was well-liked by his co-workers, and considered a dependable, thoughtful person.2) He was also close to his family, and a thoughtful uncle to his sister’s children. He often brought back gifts for them, from his travels. When he disappeared, Cummings was in the process of setting up college funds for his 4-year-old niece and 18-month-old nephew.3)

When he missed work two days in a row, and failed to show for a promised visit at his sister’s house on June 5, Cummings’ family and coworkers became concerned. He also missed a planned visit with friends in Fort Lauderdale, during a June 6 layover. After finding blood inside Cummings’ home, his parents called police again and the search began in earnest,4)

On June 10, Texas Equusearch got involved in the search for Cummings, focusing their attention on the two-mile radius area around his home.5) Founded in Dickinson, Texas, in August 20076), Texas Equusearch has conducted searched for missing persons worldwide, with a 78% find rate.7)

The Search

Inside Cummings’ home items were missing, including two rugs and purple afghan from the sofa. Police found blood splatters on a wall and an area that looked as if it had been cleaned. Police also found Cummings’ car, a white 2003 Saturn, parked in the garage, with damage to the passenger side and front bumpter.8)

Cummings had last been seen in the Montrose area of Pearland, where he had met a man known as Dillion E.J.’s on Ralph Street and J.R.’s on Pacific Street.9)

Police began investigating Mangum after many witnesses said they saw him with Cummings the night before he disappeared. Mangum was also the last person Cummings called on his cell phone. Police interviewed Mangum as a person of interest on the case on June 11, as he may have been the last person to see Cummings alive. 10)

Arrest

Mangum agreed to be taken into custody. Shortly after 7:00 p.m. on June 1111), police arrested Mangum following an interview filled with inconsistencies.12)

Mangum told police that he had met Cummings at E.J.’s bar in Houston and followed Cummings’ back to his home in Pearland, where they continued to party and drink. Mangum said that before he left Cummings gave him his wallet, credit cards, car keys, checkbook, and cash and told him to “go have fun.” Mangum said that his boots got muddy when he did some yard work for his mother. He used the same explanation for thumbs. Later he changed his story, saying that he’d borrowed a shovel from his landlord to dig mushrooms inthe woods. Mangum’s landlord confirmed that he had borrowed a shovel.13)

After Mangum’s arrest, police discovered he had made several purchases with Cummings’ credit cards along Interstate 10, between San Antonio and Houston.14) Mangum used the credit cards to buy lighter fluid, a flashlight, and hydrogen peroxide at a store outside of San Antonio. Store video confirmed that the person using the cards appeared to be Mangum. A police search of property records led to a ranch owned by Robert Mangum.15)
Discovery

Mangum’s grandfather, Robert Mangum, identified him in photo line-up and said Mangum had been on his property for the elder Mangum’s 90th birthday on June 2. Robert Mangum then gave Texas Equusearch permission to search his property.

For several days, 600 volunteers searched the elder Mangum’s property. Eventually a bone was found in a dried-up pond. Searchers dug around it and found charcoal. A bit deeper, the uncovered a body that was later determined to be Cummings’ body.16) Investigators said that Mangum had used Cummings’ credit cards, less than 16 miles from the gravesite, to buy charcoal and lighter fluid.17)

The Attack & Motive

Mangum later admitted that he lied in his explanation of the cuts on his thumbs, and admitted that he had killed an old acquaintance with a knife and buried the knife along with the body.18)

Motive

In several jail house interviews, Mangum discussed his motive for killing Cummings. He told The Houston Chronicle that he had studied the bible for “thousands and thousands and thousands” of hours, and that God appeared to him in a dream or “visitation” during a prison stay in 2001 and commanded him to kill. After six months of planning, he went to E.J.’s, where he met Cummings. The two went back to Cummings’ home, where Mangum said he stabbed Cummings in the head with a 6” blade.

“I believe I’m Elijah, called by God to be a prophet,” he told reporters. ”…I believe with all my heard that I was doing the right thing.19)

Mangum said he went to a gay bar specifically for the purposes of targeting a gay man, and that Cummings just happened “just happened to be the one that I bumped into.” 20)

The Aftermath

Mangum was charged with murder, with a hate crime enhancement. If found guilty of murder, a first degree felony, he could face up to 99 years in prison and fined up to $10,000. Mangum was jailed at the Pearland Police Department, with his jail bond set at $3,000.21)

Cummings funeral was held on June 23, at the Christian Temple Church in Houston, and was attended by 600 people. Several of Cummings’ Southwest Airlines co-workers attended and wore their uniforms.22)

Series NavigationThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Nick MoraidaThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: John Lloyd Griffin & Tommy Lee Trimble
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