News - September 1996

Man admits killing lesbians because they were homosexual

The man charged with the killing of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill of Medford, Oregon, has said he killed them because he hates homosexuals and bisexuals. The recent development in the case has been reported in the Associated Press and local Oregon media Aug. 21. The statements by the alleged killer, Robert Acremant, 27, have refocused attention on the case and reopened wounds in the Medford community.

Acremant previously said it was a botched burglary, but in a Aug. 8 letter obtained by the Associated press, Acremant wrote from the Jackson County Jail: "Now I just don't care what people think, including the jury. They can kill me for all I care. I've never liked life anyway."

In the letter, Acremant also said he killed a man last year in a drunken rage after the man made a pass at him.

Ellis and Abdill, an openly lesbian couple and local activists, were murdered "execution style" last December in Medford. Their bodies were found bound and gagged in a pick-up truck. Soon after his arrest, Acremant made a variety of statements regarding the killings, including at first that it was a botched robbery. Later he said he knew the women were lesbians and that it made it "easier" for him to kill them.

Although Medford law enforcement has always kept open the possibility of a hate crime motivation for the killings, debate has ensued, especially in some gay and lesbian media and other parts of the community, around the actual motive for the murders.

Following is a statement by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), attributable to Melinda Paras, executive director. Soon after the bodies were discovered, NGLTF appealed to the Department of Justice for a federal response to the possible hate crime:

"The recent statement by Robert Acremant indicating he killed Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill because they were lesbians refocuses the spotlight on this troubled case and the possible hate crime motivation behind the murders. Regardless of Mr. Acremant's rantings and attention-getting tactics, numerous facts in the case have all along informed our suspicions of the anti-gay bias motivation for the murders.

The facts include: Ellis and Abdill were proud and highly visible activists in the local gay, lesbian and bisexual community. The accused killer knew they were lesbians. This made it "easier," in his own words, to kill them. He killed them because, in his own words, they were homosexual. He has admitted to inventing the robbery motive for fear of reprisal.

This story is not about Robert Acremant and his demons. It is about Roxanne and Michelle and their deaths. They were intentionally and methodically executed by a killer who admits to destroying them because they were lesbians. The evidence in this case and the larger social and political climate for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people speaks to the constant threat of hate-motivated violence perpetrated against all of us.

New confessions of the murders being a hate crime and not a "botched robbery" are not a surprise to us. This has been a primary suspicion since the first hour the bodies were found.

In fact, the recent developments in this case point to concerns around another case now being investigated by the Department of Justice. NGLTF has asked the DOJ to consider anti-lesbian bias as a possible motivation in the slayings of Julianne Williams and Lollie Winans. The two women were found murdered in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park on June 1, 1996. Although the Medford case and the Virginia case are not connected, activists fear homophobia as a motivation for both tragedies.

Last December we asked Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General, to monitor the situation in Oregon and lend assistance to local law enforcement in assuring the collection of all information necessary to determine whether or not this was a hate crime. To reinforce our sense of urgency in this case, and to call attention to the constant threat of violence gay people must live under, we have again notified the DOJ of these recent developments as a follow-up to our previous request for a federal response.

We still may not have all the facts in the deaths of Roxanne and Michelle, and we may never have all the facts. We can not bring back Michelle and Roxanne, but we can keep the legacy of their work alive. We call on people of conscious, community leaders and the media to affirm a community in which acts of intolerance, big or small, will be condemned."

©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.