On June 21, Fred Martinez, Jr., a 16-year-old, Native American high school student - who described himself as openly gay and "two-spirit" - was found beaten to death on June 21st. The badly decomposed body of 16-year-old Fred Martinez Jr. was found near the sewer ponds south of Cortez by two young boys who were playing in the area. Martinez's body had been there nearly a week. Autopsy results suggest Martinez had been bludgeoned.
Two-Spirit is a term used by some Native Americans to describe a person who embraces a gender identity that differs from his or her biological sex and/or a person who is attracted to members of the same sex. The term, which may be defined or used differently by various Native Americans, stems from a traditional belief that some people have two spirits, embodying both male and female gender identities.
Different tribes had different terms - winkte in Lakota, Nadleeh in Navajo, hee-man-eh in Cheyenne - and different traditions. Two Spirit people were honored and served as leaders in their communities.
Fred Martinez was last seen at his home on June 16 and reportedly had said he was going to the carnival at the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo. He never returned home.
Police did not contact his mother, Pauline Mitchell, until June 25th despite repeated calls to their office reporting her son missing. On July 3rd, Shaun Murphy, 18, was arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder and police were told that Murphy had bragged to a friend that "he had beat up a fag."
The mother of Fred Martinez read the gruesome details of her son's autopsy - the victim's skull fracture, the slashed abdomen, the bleeding - in the newspaper rather than being informed about it by the district attorney's office, she recently complained to the Governor's Victims' Compensation and Assistance Coordinating Committee in Denver. Pauline Mitchell, the mother of Fred Martinez Jr., also alleged that District Attorney Joe Olt failed to alert her of other important developments in her son's case and has therefore violated her rights as a victim... "The District Attorney's office has denied me the right to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity and the right to be informed of and present for all critical stages of the criminal justice process," Mitchell wrote in the formal Request of Enforcement of Compliance with the Requirements of the Crime Victims Constitutional Amendment.
Martinez, who had just finished his freshman year at Montezuma-Cortez High School, was the son of Pauline Adakai of Elmwood Trailer Park in Cortez, Colorado.
Local students reported that Martinez was a homosexual, and said, in hindsight, they thought he might have been targeted for a hate crime.
Montezuma-Cortez High School counselor LouAnn Burkett said Martinez did not stand out as a problem child at the school and seemed to be well-adjusted socially in terms of his sexuality.
"He was really happy with himself - he didn't seem to have any guilt or any complex about it," Burkett said. "He enjoyed himself and the way he was and kids accepted him."
Burkett said she did not believe Martinez had been a victim of bullying.
"I never saw or heard anything - secondhand or from him - that there was anything said at school to him," she said.
"Generally, if those kids are having a problem, they'll come in. It was never pointed out to us that he was a problem. I'm just going to really miss the guy."
Montezuma-Cortez High School sophomore Jessica Wilson said Martinez often curled his hair, plucked his eyebrows, wore make-up and toted a purse at school.
"People talked behind his back, but I'm sure he knew," Wilson said.
MCHS sophomore Mandy Rollman also said Martinez was openly gay. She described him as outgoing and happy, with a good sense of humor.
"He was really nice," Rollman said. "I can't believe someone would do that to him."
Martinez's mother Pauline Mitchell called her son a "free spirit," who was "always ready to bring a laugh or a smile to my heart when I needed it the most." Starting at age 13, she said, F.C. began using makeup and curling his hair.
"We really didn't say anything to him. F.C. was beautiful and liked to make himself more beautiful. We treated him like he was precious to us. The youngest. If that is how you want to be, if you were happy with it, OK."
On August 10, 2001, the Victim Advocate's Office contacted Pauline Mitchell, mother of slain Navajo gay Two-Spirit youth Fred C. Martinez, Jr, to inform her that a continuance has been granted to the attorney defending perpetrator Shaun Murphy of Farmington, NM,. In addition, the charges against Murphy will be upgraded to first-degree murder.
In Colorado on Monday, Montezuma County Judge Sharon Hansen sentenced Shaun Murphy to 40 years in prison for the murder of Fred "F.C." Martinez, a 16-year-old who was left to die by the side of a road in Cortez last June.
The sentencing range for the 19-year-old killer, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was 16 to 48 years. Denise de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, expressed grim satisfaction with the sentence, which will keep Murphy behind bars for at least 25 years if not longer.
Murphy, who said he was drunk at the time, assaulted Martinez and crushed his skull with a rock, leaving him in a remote canyon outside of town, called The Pits, the Denver Post reports. Although he claimed not to have realized that the blows were fatal, Murphy bragged about the confrontation, and did not summon help.
When Martinez's body was discovered five days after the attack, the Post reports that Murphy was heard to say: "Killed that fool, huh?"
"Mr. Murphy," said Mitchell at the sentencing hearing, "you took my son away from me in the most vicious way I can imagine. You smashed his head with a rock... and you felt it break his skull... You deliberately left him there to die - or already dead. And my son lay there for a week and all you said about it was that you had 'bug-smashed a fag.'... You stole my son's life. You broke my family. And you broke my heart."
Murphy's mother, a lesbian, claimed her son had nothing against gays. After the sentence was announced, the Post said she left the courtroom in tears, while Murphy's grandmother had already been taken away in an ambulance after collapsing during the hearing.
"I made a terrible mistake," the father of two told Judge Hansen, pleading for something on the light side of the sentencing range. According to the Post, however, Hansen was most disturbed by the fact that Murphy did not even make an anonymous call to get medical aid, which, she said, "might have made a difference whether or not Fred Martinez lived or died."