An update to the tragic story of three Newark college students who were killed execution-style only hours before they planned to attend a black gay pride festival: Three men and three teens were indicted for the gruesome killings—but there are no hate crime charges.
Terrance Aeriel, Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey were killed in August 4, 2007 when they were shot execution style outside a Newark elementary school. A fourth victim survived the shootings. Harvey was openly gay, Hightower was reportedly lesbian and the friends "planned to drive together to New York City the next morning to attend a black Gay Pride event at Riis Park Beach." Police also say at least one woman was sexually assaulted.
The grand jury charged all six suspects with "murder, attempted murder, robbery and weapons offenses" related to the Aug. 4, 2007 killings. Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow says the indictments took a year because charges against the three teens were upgraded from juvenile to adult court. Dow tells NBC 4 robbery and gang involvement were both "elements" of the case "but declined to say what police believe to be the primary motive."
The "primary motive" that police decline to reveal is anti-gay bias. Although at least two of the victims were openly gay, authorities declined to file hate crime charges in the case. The Washington Blade and gay activists have reported "jewelry, cell phones and other items of value were found at the crime scene" which eliminates the robbery motive. Sources also reveal at least one woman—who may be lesbian—was sexually assaulted. Other reports suggest at least one teen suspect attended high school with one of the gay victims.
To complicate matters, the victims' families "do not want" their deceased children identified as gay.
This is a difficult time for the families and they are entitled to their privacy. Unfortunately, if the victims were killed because they were gay, or the perception thereof, the beefed up charges would send a strong message to families and the many young black gay men and lesbians in Newark and across New Jersey. It's not about outing someone after their death. It's about bringing justice and purpose to the lives that were cut short. And trying to prevent the same thing from happening again.
Some Background ...
Indictments Expected in Newark Triple Murders [R20]
Families of Newark Triple Murder Victims Do Not Want Case Prosecuted as Hate Crime [R20]
Newark Triple Murders an Anti-Gay Hate Crime? [R20]
Triple Murders Victims Were in "the Gay Clique" [R20]
Newark Triple Murders: Sexual Assault, Gay Angle [R20]