Murder of Allen R. Schindler Jr.
Allen R. Schindler Jr.
Allen R. Schindler Jr.
|Born||December 13, 1969|
Chicago Heights, Illinois
|Died||October 27, 1992 (aged 22)|
Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan
|Service/||United States Navy|
|Rank||E4 Radioman 3rd Class|
Allen R. Schindler Jr. (December 13, 1969 – October 27, 1992) was an American Radioman Petty Officer Third Class in the United States Navy who was murdered for being gay. He was killed in a public toilet in Sasebo, Nagasaki, Japan, by Terry M. Helvey, who acted with the aid of an accomplice, Charles Vins, in what Esquire called a "brutal murder". The case became synonymous with the debate concerning LGBT members of the military that had been brewing in the United States culminating in the "Don't ask, don't tell" bill.
The events surrounding Schindler's murder were the subject of ABC's 20/20 episode and were portrayed in the 1997 TV film Any Mother's Son. In 1998, Any Mother's Son won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Made for TV Movie.
According to several of his friends, Schindler had complained repeatedly of anti-gay harassment to his chain of command in March and April 1992, citing incidents such as the gluing-shut of his locker and frequent comments from shipmates such as "There's a faggot on this ship and he should die". Schindler had begun the separation process to leave the Navy, but his superiors insisted he remain on his ship until the process was finished. Though he knew his safety was at risk, Schindler obeyed orders.
While on transport from San Diego, California, to Sasebo, the USS Belleau Wood made a brief stop in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Afterward, en route to Japan, Schindler made a personal prank announcement "2-Q-T-2-B-S-T-R-8" (too cute to be straight) on secure lines reaching much of the Pacific Fleet. When he appeared at captain's mast for the unauthorized radio message, he requested that the hearing be closed. It was open, with two hundred to three hundred people in attendance. Schindler was put on restrictive leave and was unable to leave the ship until a few weeks after arriving at Sasebo and four days before his death.
Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey, who was a member of the ship's weather department (OA Division, Operations Department), stomped Schindler to death in a toilet in a park in Sasebo, Nagasaki. A key witness, Jonathan Witte, saw Helvey repeatedly stomp on Schindler's body while singing. Witte then ran to retrieve Shore Patrolmen nearby, which startled Helvey and Vins into running from the bathroom. Witte returned with Shore Patrolmen in less than 30 seconds and saw Allen Schindler laying on the floor, struggling to breathe through a mouthful of blood. Witte and Shore Patrolmen carried Schindler's body to the nearby Albuquerque Bridge where he died from his injuries. Witte had met Schindler previously two days before his murder, but given the gravity of his injuries, he was unable to recognize Schindler. Schindler had "at least four fatal injuries to the head, chest, and abdomen," his head was crushed, ribs broken, and his penis cut (from being cut from his own zipper while fighting and wrestling with Helvey), and he had "sneaker-tread marks stamped on his forehead and chest", destroying "every organ in his body", leaving behind a "nearly unrecognizable corpse." Witte was asked to explain in detail to the military court what the crime scene looked like, but he refused, as Schindler's mother and sister were present in the courtroom. His family was only able to identify him by the tattoo on his arm.
The Navy was less than forthcoming about the details of the killing, both to the news media and to the victim's family, especially his mother, Dorothy Hajdys. Navy Officials failed to include his belongings: the log book Allen kept of his time on board, and his record of harassment he was receiving on the advice of friends.
In the wake of Schindler's murder, the Navy denied that it had received any complaints of harassment and refused to speak publicly about the case or to release the Japanese police report on the murder.
The medical examiner compared Schindler's injuries to those sustained by a victim of a fatal horse trampling saying they were worse "than the damage to a person who'd been stomped by a horse; they were similar to what might be sustained in a high-speed car crash or a low-speed aircraft accident."
At the wake in the family's home in Chicago, his mother and sister could only identify him by the tattoos on his arm as his face was disfigured.
Trial and outcomes
During the trial Helvey denied that he killed Schindler because he was gay, stating, "I did not attack him because he was homosexual", but evidence presented by Navy investigator Kennon F. Privette, from the interrogation of Helvey the day after the murder, showed otherwise. "He said he hated homosexuals. He was disgusted by them," Privette said. On killing Schindler, Privette quoted Helvey as saying: "I don't regret it. I'd do it again. ... He deserved it."
Under a court-approved bargain in exchange for his pleading guilty to "inflicting great bodily harm", the maximum penalty is lifetime imprisonment. Under the original charge, it was death.
After the trial, Helvey was convicted of murder and Douglas J. Bradt, the captain who kept the incident quiet, was transferred to shore duty in Florida. Helvey is serving a life sentence. By statute, Helvey is granted a clemency hearing every year. Initially, he was imprisoned in the United States Disciplinary Barracks. As of 2015[update], he is housed at FCI Greenville in Illinois under the inmate number 13867-045. Helvey's accomplice, Charles Vins, was allowed to plea bargain as guilty to three lesser offenses, including failure to report a serious crime and to testify truthfully against Helvey, and served a 78-day sentence before receiving a general discharge from the Navy.
The events surrounding Schindler's murder were the subject of a 20/20 episode and were portrayed in the 1997 TV film Any Mother's Son. In 1998, Any Mother's Son won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Made for TV Movie.
- Jameson, Sam (May 28, 1994), "U.S. Sailor Sentenced to Life Imprisonment in Murder", Los Angeles Times, retrieved March 21, 2008
- Brown, Chip (December 1993), "The Accidental Martyr", Esquire, archived from the original on March 27, 2008, retrieved March 21, 2008
- "Any Mother's Son – About the Movie". Lifetime Television. Archived from the original on January 26, 2008. Retrieved January 12, 2008.
- "GLAAD Awards Part I in NYC". PlanetOut Inc. March 31, 1998. Archived from the original on February 1, 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2002.
- "Uniform Discrimination: The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy of the U.S. Military, section V. Discharges of Gay And lesbian Servicemembers", Human Rights Watch, January 2003, retrieved March 21, 2008
- Witte, Jonathan. Dark Liberty: Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Amazon. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
- "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' – intolerable or intolerant?", Gay & Lesbian Times, Editorial (1013), May 24, 2007, archived from the original on June 11, 2008, retrieved March 21, 2008
- Belkin, Dr. Aaron (May 1, 2005), "Abandoning 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Will Decrease Anti-Gay Violence", Naval Institute: Proceedings Monthly, archived from the original on March 17, 2008, retrieved March 21, 2008
- Green, Jesse (September 12, 1993), "What the Navy Taught Allen Schindler's Mother", New York Times, retrieved March 29, 2010
- Joyner, Will (August 11, 1997), "Slain Sailor's Mother As a Profile in Courage", The New York Times, retrieved March 21, 2008