Mystery at Gallaudet

Article excerpt

The beating death of a deaf gay freshman leaves students at a Washington, D.C., university searching for answers

Eric Plunkett was a typical college freshman. The 19-year-old was eager to make new friends, dive into his course work, and participate in extracurricular activities at Washington, D.C.'s Gallaudet University, a school for the hearing-impaired. Plunkett, who was deaf and had cerebral palsy, was even elected secretary of the school's gay group, the Lambda Society, soon after hitting campus.

But things were anything but typical September 28, when Plunkett's lifeless body was discovered in his dorm room. Police officials refused to classify Plunkett's murder as a hate crime. And in a strange turn of events, a fellow first-year student and friend of Plunkett's, Thomas Minch of Greenland, N.H., was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the case on October 3--only to have the charges dropped by prosecutors for lack of evidence the next day.

"We're really relieved because no one wanted to believe Thomas did it," freshman Carla Ring told The Washington Post. …