Murder of Barry Winchell
PFC Barry Winchell
|Born||August 31, 1977|
Kansas City, Missouri
|Died||July 6, 1999 (aged 21)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1997–1999|
|Rank||Private First Class|
Barry Winchell (August 31, 1977 – July 6, 1999) was an infantry soldier in the United States Army, whose murder by a fellow soldier, Calvin Glover, became a point of reference in the ongoing debate about the policy known as "Don't ask, don't tell", which did not allow U.S. military gays, bisexuals, and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation. (Winchell was dating a transgender woman, Calpernia Addams).
A native of Missouri, Winchell enlisted in the Army in 1997 and was transferred in 1998 to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. As a Private First Class, he was assigned to the 2/502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division. While stationed there, he received a Dear John letter from his high school sweetheart.
Winchell later accompanied his roommate, Spc. Justin Fisher, and other soldiers for an excursion to Nashville's downtown bars. In 1999, Fisher and others took Winchell to a Nashville club, The Connection, which featured transgender performers, where Winchell met a Trans woman showgirl named Calpernia Addams. The two began to date. Fisher began to spread rumors of the relationship at Ft. Campbell. Winchell then became a target of harassment which his superiors did little to stop.
The harassment was continuous until the Fourth of July weekend, when Winchell and fellow soldier, Calvin Glover, fought after Winchell accused a boasting Glover of being a fraud. Both were drinking beer throughout the day. Glover was soundly defeated by Winchell, and Fisher harassed Glover about being beaten by "'a fucking faggot' like Winchell." Fisher and Winchell had their own history of physical altercations as roommates in the barracks of Ft. Campbell. Fisher continued to goad Glover. Subsequently, in the early hours of July 5, 1999, Glover took a baseball bat from Fisher's locker and struck Winchell in the head with it as he slept on a cot outside near the entry to the room Winchell shared with Fisher. Winchell died of massive head injuries on July 6 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Glover was later convicted of Winchell's murder. Fisher was convicted of lesser crimes regarding impeding the subsequent criminal investigation, and both were incarcerated at the United States Disciplinary Barracks. The murder charges against Fisher were dropped and he was sentenced in a plea bargain to 12.5 years, denied clemency in 2003, released to a halfway house in August 2006, and released from custody in October 2006. Glover is serving a life sentence.
Winchell's murder led Secretary of Defense William Cohen to order a review of the "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, which some asserted was a significant factor in Winchell's harassment and murder. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was a prominent critic of how the policy was implemented, and they demanded to know who, in higher ranks, was responsible for the climate on base.
Winchell's parents, Wally and Patricia Kutteles, continued to press for a re-examination of "Don't ask, don't tell." Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, a point man on LGBT issues for the U.S. Army, visited with Patricia Kutteles. Despite campaigning by the Kutteleses and LGBT activist groups, the Commanding General of Fort Campbell at the time of the murder, Major General Robert T. Clark, refused to take responsibility for the purported anti-gay climate at Fort Campbell under his command. In May 2003, he met with Patricia Kutteles, who opposed his promotion saying: "He doesn't have the command authority or responsibility. The promotion would be another obstacle in the way of everything we have tried to do to honor our son." His promotion to lieutenant general was delayed in October 2002 and May 2003. After being exonerated, he was nominated and approved for promotion to lieutenant general on December 5, 2003.
The 2003 film Soldier's Girl is based on Winchell's murder and the events leading up to it. Troy Garity portrays Winchell with Lee Pace playing Calpernia Addams. The film received a Peabody Award and numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and sparked renewed debate of the effects of DADT during Clark's promotion hearings.
- New York Times: David France, "An Inconvenient Woman," May 28, 2000, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: Francis X. Clines, "For Gay Soldier, a Daily Barrage of Threats and Slurs," December 12, 1999, accessed March 12, 2012
- Thomas Hackett. "The Execution of Private Barry Winchell: The Real Story Behind the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Murder". Archived from the original on February 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-02-13. . Rolling Stone, 2 March 2000. At Archive.org.
- "Lovers in a Dangerous Time", The Advocate, May 27, 2003, pp. 30 ff.
- New York Times: "Soldier Pleads Guilty In Gay Slaying Case," January 9, 2000, accessed March 12, 2012
- U.S. v. Fisher, 58 M.J. 300 (U.S. Armed Forces Court of Appeals June 17, 2003).
- Black, Chris (December 13, 1999). Pentagon to review 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. CNN
- New York Times: Elizabeth Becker, "Pentagon Orders Training to Prevent Harassment of Gays," February 2, 2000, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: Robert Pear, "President Admits 'Don't Ask' Policy Has Been Failure," December 12, 1999, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: Philip Shenon, "Revised Military Guidelines Fail to Quell Gay Concerns," August 14, 1999, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: John Files, "Committee Approves Promoting General In Gay-Bashing Case," October 24, 2003, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: "Slain Gay Soldier's Case Slows a General's Rise," May 18, 2003, accessed March 12, 2012
- New York Times: John Files, "Washington: General's Delayed Promotion," November 19, 2003, accessed March 12, 2012