|Michelle Lynne Kosilek|
|Born||April 10, 1949 (age 64)
|Residence||Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk|
|Known for||Murder of wife, transgender status|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment|
|Criminal status||In prison|
|Spouse(s)||Cheryl McCaul (c. 1954-1990), murdered at age 36|
|Children||Son, Timothy, born c. 1975 (age ~38)|
Michelle Lynne Kosilek (born April 10, 1949, age 64) is a convicted murderer and transgender woman who is best known for the controversy surrounding her attempts to obtain treatment for her gender identity disorder while in prison.
In 1990, then known as Robert, Kosilek strangled wife Cheryl McCaul, killing her. Kosilek was sentenced to serve a life sentence without parole. During her incarceration, Kosilek has repeatedly sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction, seeking medical treatment for her gender identity disorder.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Adult life
- 3 Marriage to Cheryl McCaul
- 4 Murder of Cheryl McCaul
- 5 Prosecution and sentencing
- 6 Medical lawsuits while incarcerated
- 7 Personal life
- 8 References
- 9 See also
Kosilek suffered a troubled childhood where the adults responsible for her care regularly committed acts of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse against her. The abuse continued into her adult life. Much of the abuse is attributable to transphobia, to the fear and hostility that the people around Kosilek expressed towards her, a transgender person. None of the people who abused Kosilek were ever prosecuted.
Kosilek was born April 10, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois. Kosilek's father, Henry, was an unemployed laborer. Her mother, Elizabeth, was about 18 when she gave birth to Kosilek's older sister, Patricia, and she was about 22 when she gave birth to the child she named Robert John Kosilek. Both of Kosilek's parents were alcoholics; Kosilek later described Kosilek's mother as a "vicious drunk" who beat her child with a lamp cord. When Kosilek was four years old, Kosilek's father was sentenced to prison for mail fraud.
When Kosilek was four, and her sister Patricia was seven, their mother Elizabeth was living in a trailer, with a boyfriend named Red. At age four, Kosilek told her mother that she was a girl. Soon after revealing this, Kosilek's mother left her two children at her mother's house. Elizabeth did not return for the children. Kosilek's grandmother relinquished the children to the Chicago police department. They were sent to an orphanage named St. Hedwig's, run by nuns. The siblings were separated, as the orphanage was segregated by sex into a girls' side and a boys' side.
Kosilek reported that, in general, the children were provided for; they were well-fed, clothed, and bathed, and given a good education, better than that of the public schools in the area. However, the nuns were emotionally cold and cruel. They also abused Kosilek for being transgender. On several occasions, Kosilek was discovered wearing girls' clothing. On each of these occasions, the nuns responded by engaging in child abuse, referring to Kosilek as "Satan's child", beating the five-year-old with paddles and rulers, and locking her in a closet under the stairs for hours.
Kosilek and her sister Patricia lived in the orphanage for five years.
In early 1959, when Kosilek was 9 years old, her mother returned to the orphanage to visit her children. Soon after that visit, on February 9, 1959, Elizabeth returned, with a vehicle, to conduct what Kosilek described as an "escape". In the evening, during a thunderstorm, Elizabeth arrived at the orphanage with her new boyfriend, Theodore Barron, as a passenger, and with Barron's friend, Baron Lee, at the wheel. Kosilek recalls running with her sister, through the rain, in the dark, towards the open car door.
Kosilek and Patricia were happy to be home. Elizabeth married Barron, the couple got a dog named Mugsy, and the adults enrolled the children in school. Barron lied to school administrators, telling them the children's last name was Barron, to avoid detection by the authorities. Their happiness did not last. Kosilek described Barron as an "insufferable bully" and an "aspiring gigolo", who laid around the house drinking beer and watching television, while Elizabeth supported the family on her meager earnings as a waitress. Barron occasionally earned money playing piano with infrequent weekend gigs in bars, alone, or in a trio with Baron Lee, a drummer, and an upright bassist named Art.
Kosilek's maternal grandfather began repeatedly sexually abusing the child, starting when she was just 10 years old. Kosilek described how her grandfather groomed her, buying her ice cream, then molesting her. Kosilek guessed that her mother knew what was going on, stating that when Kosilek started asking her mother whether her grandmother was going to be there (to find out whether she, Kosilek would have to face her grandfather alone), Elizabeth stopped sending Kosilek there. However, when Kosilek told her mother that her grandfather was sexually abusing her, Elizabeth hit her child in the face, giving her a bloody nose.
Kosilek's parents were hostile to Kosilek's gender identity and expression. Barron relentlessly abused the preteen, calling her "pervert", "faggot", and "sissy". Kosilek began using alcohol the same year; Kosilek reported that her stepfather Barron gave her her first drink.
In 1962, when Kosilek was about 12 years old, she missed a lot of school, and ran away from home often. She was placed in a juvenile facility called the Arthur J. Audy Home. The boys there bullied her badly. The staff decided against sending Kosilek to reform school. The Cook County Juvenile Court ultimately released Kosilek to her mother, with the requirement that Kosilek see a psychologist who worked for the court. On Kosilek's second visit, the psychologist knelt on the carpet next to her, and put his hand on her genitals. Kosilek later spoke of how much this damaged her remaining trust in adults. She never returned there.
Soon after, Kosilek became involved in child prostitution; at age 12 she was engaging in sex acts for money on the streets of Chicago. Later in her life, Kosilek said she was not attracted to men, and never had been; she said only did it for the money. By age 12, she was drinking regularly, and she bought her first bag of marijuana at age 13.
By age 14, Kosilek had hidden a stash of girls' clothing and makeup in an abandoned shed. She went there to dress in her clothes and to wear her makeup. Kosilek befriended a trans woman named Rikki Cordoba, who taught her about makeup and how to do her hair. Rikki also gave Kosilek a jar of lotion which contained estrogen, which Kosilek began using. After two months, Kosilek's breasts had begun to grow. When Kosilek told her mother that her breasts were growing, Barron hit her with a broken beer bottle, and her mother hit Barron with a frying pan. That day, when Elizabeth left for work, Barron continued beating Kosilek with a fiberglass fishing pole, and then forced her to kneel in a corner, on a layer of uncooked rice (a form of torture which eventually causes excruciating pain).
Barron and Elizabeth fought frequently. An final altercation ensued, with Barron attempting to overpower Elizabeth, and with Patricia, by then known as Tish, taking a bottle and beating Barron's knees until Barron let go of Elizabeth. That was the point at which Elizabeth took her children and left. Later, Elizabeth became involved with a man named John Horn; they and the children moved into a basement apartment. Not long after, Tish, about age 18, left home and went out on her own, taking a position as a live-in babysitter and housekeeper.
At 14, Kosilek graduated from eighth grade, and, shortly after, ran away again. Kosilek moved in with a man named Chuck Derry; whom she had met while prostituting. Derry had previously paid the girl for sex. Derry then offered the 14-year-old a place to stay, in exchange for sex. Kosilek moved in with Derry, bringing her belongings with her in a shopping bag. As an adult, Kosilek reflected that she was not attracted to men at all, that she had entered into this arrangement primarily so that she could escape the violence at home, and express her gender more freely. She referred to the situation with Derry as being both "nurturing" and "a prison".
Eventually, Kosilek was caught by police, and arrested for running away. Kosilek was sent back to the Audy Home. After a few weeks, Kosilek was sent to live with Joseph and Helen Brzezinski, a Polish and Scottish immigrant couple who opened their home to abused and neglected children.
Despite dropping out of high school, Kosilek did eventually earn her bachelor's degree in Counseling Psychology. She worked productively as a counselor in the field of substance abuse treatment for periods of time.
Transgender status and abuse
From 1967 to 1968, starting when Kosilek was about 18 years old, a doctor victimized Kosilek, exploiting her difficulty in obtaining medical treatment for her gender identity disorder. The doctor prescribed hormone therapy in exchange for sex, in an arrangement constituting medical malpractice. Kosilek later said that, while she was on hormone therapy, she "felt normal" for the first time in her life. Kosilek also took hormones for several months in 1971 and 1972 (when she was about 22 to 23 years old), eventually developing breasts.
As a young adult in her early 20s, Kosilek survived many violent attacks from men who were hostile to her transgender status. In the early 1970s, when Kosilek was imprisoned in Chicago, prison officials chose to house her with male inmates, placing her at risk of violence and abuse. Some of the inmates targeted Kosilek because she was visibly transgender, and assaulted her on multiple occasions. In 1971, when Kosilek was 22 years old, a group of inmates brutally gang-raped her. Prison officials failed to protect Kosilek, and the next year, in 1972, a group of men gang-raped her a second time.
In another incident, during a time when Kosilek was not imprisoned, two men attacked Kosilek outside of a gay bar. The men later admitted that they specifically targeted Kosilek because she was transgender. The two assailants beat Kosilek badly, hitting her with a brick. After these assaults, Kosilek stopped taking female hormones.
Marriage to Cheryl McCaul
After relapsing into drug abuse, Kosilek entered a drug rehabilitation facility. There, Kosilek met Cheryl McCaul, who was working at the facility as a volunteer counselor. McCaul believed that Kosilek's gender identity would change if McCaul married her; Kosilek recalled McCaul saying that all Kosilek needed was "a good woman". McCaul and Kosilek were married, but Kosilek's gender identity did not change. In (c)1975, the couple had a son, whom they named Timothy. McCaul was 21 years old, and Kosilek was 26.
Murder of Cheryl McCaul
Kosilek murdered McCaul in May 1990. In October 1992, about two and a half years after the murder, Kosilek gave a series of recorded interviews to a reporter. In one of these recordings, Kosilek stated that, on the day of the murder, McCaul had returned home to the couple's condominium in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Upon returning home, McCaul discovered Kosilek wearing McCaul's clothing. This enraged McCaul, and an altercation ensued. McCaul threw boiling tea at Kosilek (either at her face or her genitals), and Kosilek knocked McCaul down. McCaul grabbed a butcher's knife, and chased Kosilek into another room, threatening to kill her. Kosilek picked up a piece of wire that had been on a table.
This was all that Kosilek reported being able to recall, until awakening, days later, in the psychiatric unit of a hospital. In the interview, Kosilek stated that she "probably, because of the trauma of it [...] went into a blackout at that moment." Kosilek also stated: "Apparently, I did take her life. It was probably in self-defense." McCaul was 36 years old.
Discovery of the body
On Sunday, May 20, 1990, Cheryl McCaul's body was discovered in the back seat of her car. Her car was found in the parking lot of the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleborough, after the mall had closed for the night. McCaul's body was nude, and she had died by strangulation. Kosilek had strangled her with a rope and with a piece of piano wire, in a gruesome scene: Kosilek had strangled McCaul so tightly with the wire that Kosilek nearly severed McCaul's head from her body.
During the court proceedings, a cab driver testified that he had picked up Kosilek from that same mall, on that same afternoon, and had driven Kosilek to a store located about half a mile from her house in Mansfield.
Kosilek's son, Timothy, who was 15 years old at the time of the murder, later testified that that evening, Kosilek had cooked steak for their dinner, and that they had talked about everyday things. Timothy also stated that Kosilek shaved off her beard on the day of the killing, the first time she had done so in at least a year. Kosilek was 41 years old.
That evening, Kosilek called the North Attleborough police department, stated that wife Cheryl had not come home that evening, and asked whether there had been any report of a car accident in which she might have been involved. The police told Kosilek that they had found Cheryl's car, and they asked Kosilek to come to the police station. Kosilek agreed, requesting that an officer pick her up.
Kosilek was twice taken in for questioning, once that day, and once on Monday, May 21. During this second visit, the police informed Kosilek that she was a suspect in the murder, and that they, the police, had spoken with Kosilek's son. Kosilek informed the police that she was going to get a lawyer, and left.
Erratic driving and arrest
Later that evening, just after midnight, On May 22, 1990, shortly after midnight, Kosilek crashed her car in Bedford. Police observed Kosilek in the driver's seat, dressed in women's clothing, having crashed into a stop sign and some bushes. The officer administered field sobriety tests, determined that Kosilek was not intoxicated, and called her a cab.
Two days later, on the afternoon of May 24, 1990, police in New Rochelle, New York stopped Kosilek for speeding. The officer observed vodka and beer inside the car, smelled alcohol on Kosilek's breath, and arrested Kosilek. At some point, Kosilek remarked to the arresting officer, "You would be drunk too, if the police thought you killed your wife." Later, at the police station, Kosilek stated, "Look, I had a fifteen year old son and a wife. I can't call my wife. I murdered my wife. Now, I need to call a psychiatrist now." Kosilek was transported to the psychiatric unit of a New York hospital, and subsequently was brought back to Massachusetts by the Massachusetts State Police.
Prosecution and sentencing
|This section requires expansion. (February 2013)|
For the murder of Cheryl McCaul, Kosilek was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Medical lawsuits while incarcerated
Kosilek is incarcerated in Norfolk, Massachusetts, at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Norfolk, an all-male prison. Kosilek has been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, and identifies as female. Kosilek legally changed her first name to Michelle in the early 90s, not long after the murder, while awaiting trial.
Psychotherapy and hormone replacement therapy
In 2000, Kosilek sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC), claiming 'violation of rights' under the Eighth Amendment. Kosilek won that suit in 2002, and obtained hormone replacement therapy and psychotherapy for her condition.
Sex reassignment surgery
In May 2006, Kosilek sued the DOC, arguing that refusing to provide sex reassignment surgery constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendment. On September 4, 2012, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that the state had violated Kosilek's constitutional rights by denying sex reassignment surgery, noting that senior correction officials engaged in "pretense, pretext, and prevarication" to deny the treatment. Wolf ordered the DOC to provide Kosilek with the surgery. The DOC is appealing the decision.
Response from family members of McCaul
Relatives of Cheryl McCaul were outraged by Kosilek's attempts to obtain surgery. Among the relatives are Margaret Landry, Cheryl McCaul's older sister, Laura J. Brandel, Landry's daughter, and Marlee Gomes, McCaul's cousin. In 2012, Brandel and other family members were reported to be working with then-Senator Scott Brown, to prevent Kosilek from obtaining the surgery.
Kosilek briefly received electrolysis treatments in 2008. In 2009, Kosilek lost her eighth lawsuit, attempting to force the DOC to provide electrolysis to remove facial hair. In October 2012, Judge Wolf ordered the DOC to hire an independent expert to determine whether electrolysis was a necessary part of Kosilek's treatment for gender identity disorder.
On October 20, 2006, Kosilek married a woman named Jessica. Like Kosilek, Jessica is transsexual, and is imprisoned, though in another state. The marriage is unofficial, and involved coordination between the two women to say their vows at the same time. Kosilek had a bouquet of flowers, a maid of honor, and an enlarged photograph of Jessica. Kosilek sent invitations, requesting her guests' "spiritual presence" at the appointed hour, and "a random act of kindness" instead of a wedding present.
- Grace's Daughter, written by Michelle Kosilek
- Wedge, Dave (June 11, 2006). "Cross-dressing con's secret life: Psych eval details abuse, confusion.". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- Michelle Kosilek, on Smashwords
- Kosilek v. Maloney, 221 F.Supp.2d 158 (District Court D, Massachusetts August 28, 2002).
- Kosilek v. Spencer
- Kosilek v. Spencer – 8th Amendment decision
- Commonwealth vs. Kosilek
- Providence Journal
- "Taxpayers must fund wife-killer's legal battle as well as sex change, says judge". FoxNews.com (Fox News). September 17, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "Convicted killer sues state for free sex change". NBS News. May 31, 2006. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- "Mass. inmate sex-change ruling praised, condemned". CBS News. September 5, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
- Huus, Kari (September 4, 2012). "Sex-change surgery for prison inmate granted by judge". Retrieved November 9, 2012.
- Cassidy, Chris (September 26, 2012). "State to appeal Kosilek sex-change decision". Boston Herald. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- Family Speaks Out, Fox News
- Boston Globe (Kosilek Blasts Judge)
- Boston Herald – electrolysis
- "Wife-killer denied jailhouse electrolysis for time being". Boston Herald. November 26, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
- "Prisoner Michelle Kosilek requests electrolysis". Boston Globe. October 25, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012.