Media Tune out Torture Death of Arkansas Boy: Homosexuals Charged with Rape, Murder

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Most of the nation has not heard about two homosexual men who face the death penalty in Arkansas, charged with raping and torturing a 13-year-old boy to death last month.

The brutal crime against Prairie Grove, Ark., seventh-grader Jesse Dirkhising - who was raped repeatedly and suffocated with his own underwear in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 26 - was reported by news organizations in Arkansas and also covered by newspapers in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

But the boy's death did not receive national media attention. Tim Graham, director of media analysis for the Media Research Center, said he is not surprised.

"Nobody wants to say anything negative about homosexuals. Nobody wants to be seen on the wrong side of that issue," said Mr. Graham, who sees "political correctness" at work.

But David Smith, spokesman for a major homosexual lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign, said yesterday of the Jesse Dirkhising case: "This has nothing to do with gay people."

The muted press reaction to the Dirkhising slaying starkly contrasts with coverage of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual University of Wyoming freshman who was beaten to death last October.

Christopher D. Plumlee, deputy prosecuting attorney for Benton County, Ark., who investigated Jesse's death, admits he was a "little surprised" at the limited coverage this "horrible crime against a child" received.

Joshua Macave Brown, 22, and Davis Don Carpenter, 38, described as homosexual "lovers" in a police affidavit, have both been charged with capital murder and six counts of rape and are being held without bond in connection with Jesse's death.

The accused killers pleaded not guilty at an arraignment earlier this month and face another court date Dec. 8. Mr. Plumlee said their trial is scheduled for April 10, 2000.

Mr. Carpenter was a friend of Jesse's parents, Tina Yates and Miles Yates Jr., and the boy had been staying with the two men at their apartment in Rogers, Ark., on weekends for two months prior to his death, Mr. Plumlee said. The prosecutor said the child's family had been falsely told Jesse helped out at a Rogers beauty salon Mr. Carpenter managed.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Brown told police that on the morning of Sept. 26, he sneaked up on the boy, tied his hands behind his back, placed his pair of undershorts in the teen's mouth and secured the briefs with a bandana and duct tape. He said he blindfolded the youth, bound him to a bed and repeatedly sodomized him.

Mr. Brown said he went to the kitchen to get a sandwich and that when he returned to the bedroom, Jesse was not breathing. He alerted his roommate, who called 911.

Asked about Mr. Carpenter's role during the crime, Mr. Brown said Mr. Carpenter stood at the bedroom door and masturbated as he watched. Police also recovered notes they believe implicate Mr. Carpenter in planning the crime.

Mr. Plumlee would not speculate on why this slaying received such scant coverage. But "this was murder and rape in an area that has a low crime rate, a particularly low rate of violent crime. We generally don't have crimes with this degree of brutality here," he said.

He added he sees local outrage at the "torture" Jesse endured. …