Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Mom vs. Military

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Mom vs. Military

Article excerpt

Patricia Kutteles, mother of slain soldier Barry Winchell, responds to the military's rebuff of her wrongful death suit

Patricia Kutteles received more bad news in the mail in late May. The Army's deputy general counsel informed her that the military was denying Kutteles's $1.8 million wrongful death suit in the murder of her son, Pfc. Barry Winchell, who was killed at the Fort Campbell, Ky., Army base in 1999. Kutteles had filed the suit to force the Army to take some responsibility in the case, since the antigay harassment of Winchell, she said, had been known to Army officers and went unchecked before his murder.

"When I opened the letter, I was devastated," Kutteles said. "Once again the military has refused to consider Barry's case on the merits. It's a catch-22 situation, because the law basically says the military does not have to be responsible for the safety for the young men and women in the service [and cannot be sued without its consent]."

Winchell, 21, had been subjected to harassment and slurs for months because of his relationship with a male-to-female transsexual. On July 5, 1999, he was bludgeoned with a baseball bat while he slept in his cot; he died the next day. Pvt. Calvin Glover, who had had a fight with Winchell and said he was enraged that a "faggot" had "kick[ed] [his] ass," confessed, was convicted of murder, and received a life sentence.

Kutteles is now one the strongest critics of the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, warning parents of military enlistees that their children face harassment and violence if they're even suspected of being gay or lesbian. With her husband, Wally, a Korean War veteran, shouting his own angry comments in the background, Kutteles spoke to The Advocate from her Kansas City, Mo., home after learning of the Army's decision.

You said, last rime we spoke, that Barry would say, "Suck it up and drive on." What's your next move?

We are out of options, legally. We spoke to [openly gay Massachusetts congressman] Barney Frank about trying to get a bill introduced through the House Judiciary Committee, which would allow us to seek redress. But the Republican majority will never let it come up. …

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