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Testimony at a July 25 preliminary hearing is revealing horrific details in the May 17 murder of Brandy M. Stevens, 20, the Erie Times-News reports. Steven’s ex-girlfriend, Jade N. Olmstead, 18, and Olmstead’s current girlfriend, Ashley M. Barber, 20, stand accused of homicide for the Cochranton, Pa.-area killing. Cochranton is a small town in the northwest corner of the state.
At the July 25 hearing, police Trooper Eric Mallory testified that Barber and Olmstead confessed that they had killed Stevens, beating and choking her before burying her, barely alive, in a shallow grave. Barber had initially claimed that her father had killed Stevens due to hostility toward gay people, according to the Times-News.
Autopsy results revealed that Stevens died from severe head injuries and suffocation by dirt. She was a sociology student at Youngstown State University.
The National Coalition of Anti-violence Programs (NCAVP) is using the crime to call attention to the NCAVP’s 2010 report, which shows a 38 percent increase in reports of intimate partner violence (IPV) and severity of violence within the LGBT community. The coalition is also reaching out to several local organizations to offer guidance and resources to those affected by the crime.
The suspects, both in custody, are scheduled for arraignment in Crawford County Court Aug. 24.
From Aug. 24 to 26, the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., will hold the first weekend Jewish LGBTQ Teen Shabbaton for LGBT youths and their allies. The weekend will include a variety of team-building and social activities, such as workshops on ”LGBTQ Themes in Jewish Text” and a keynote talk and concert by African-American Orthodox hip-hop artist Y-Love.
Aram Altzman, a member of the weekend’s steering committee, said in a statement announcing the event, ”The shabbaton will provide a space for queer teens to express their identities as Jews as well as members of the LGBTQ community. It will give our generation of Jewish leaders the tools we need to continue to work for equality in our home communities.”
With support from the UJA-Federation of New York and other Jewish-youth partners, the cost of the weekend, including all food and lodging – as well as transportation from Newark Liberty International Airport, Boston’s Logan International Airport and the Wassaic, N.Y., rail station – is $36 per attendee. Registration is available online at isabellafreedman.org/lgbtqteen.
Pastor Jack Hakimian faces a lease-contract termination from Miami-Dade Schools due to the content of recent sermons to his Impact Miami Church congregation, which meets at North Miami Senior High School, OneNewsNow reports. The Liberian-born Hakimian has compared homosexuality to witchcraft and drug abuse.
”We call homosexuality evil in the same way they call us bigots and evil,” Hakimian told the Florida Baptist Witness. ”This is civil speech and dissent.”
In a statement released to Miami ABC-affiliate WPLG’s Local 10 News, Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Hakimian’s sermons ”appear to be contrary to school board policy, as well as the basic principles of humanity, and I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved. … I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.”
The conservative Liberty Counsel entered the debate July 25, warning Carvalho that, ”The district cannot discriminate on the basis of [Hakimian’s] biblically sound viewpoint.”