On July 22, 2004, 18-year-old Scotty Joe Weaver’s burned body was found at the side of a rural Alabama road. He had been beaten, strangled, cut, burned and robbed of between $65 and $80. While robbery was first thought to be the main motivation, Baldwin County District Attorney concluded that the crime was actually a hate crime:
“In Alabama, we have very little violent crime against race. We’ve gone past that in our state,” said Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone. “We’re not there yet in lifestyle changes. We haven’t arrived yet to more acceptance.” …
“We have very specific evidence that indicates part of the motive involved his sexual orientation,” said Whetstone.
Whetstone noted that the wounds on Scotty Joe’s body indicated “overkill,” a common feature of anti-gay hate crimes.
Robert Porter, 18, Nichole Bryars Kelsay, 18, and Christopher Gaines, 20 were arrested and charged with capital murder. Gaines and Kelsay had been Scotty Joe’s roommates.
Gaines appears to have been the most cooperative of the three defendants. Shortly after his arrest, Gaines’ lawyer at that time said that Gaines told him that Porter “spoke openly of wanting to kill the guy because he was gay.”
Yesterday, Christopher Gaines pleaded guilty to capital murder. A shortened jury trial will begin Monday to determine whether he receives the death penalty or life without parole. It’s uncertain whether he will testify against the other two defendants when they stand trial later this year.
Alabama’s hate crime law doesn’t cover sexual orientation, but prosecutors said it would be a factor in determining if they would seek the death penalty. Scotty Joe Weaver’s murder was not included in the FBI’s hate crime statistics for 2004, representing another example of the gaps in the FBI’s hate crime reporting program.