Patricia Nell Warren

Cold Cases With an LGBT Twist

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | March 11, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media
Tags: Robert Wone murder, unsolved gay murders, unsolved LGBT murders, unsolved transgender murders

Cold cases are a popular TV reality thread, reflecting the public's fascination with unsolved murders. Sometimes only one or two people -- a family member, an isolated detective -- keep the flame burning on these cases for many years. Sometimes you can almost feel the spirits of the victims hard at work in the next world, trying to lead investigators to their killer, determined that the world will finally learn what happened to them. Ardent fans of cold cases (including myself) can find TV fare in "Cold Case Files" on A & E, and "Forensic Files" on Tru, as well as "Cold Case" on CBS.

Significant fact about cold cases: Western society's lethal hostility towards LGBT people means that victims in many cold cases involve members of our community. Another significant fact: the victims are often activists or community leaders.

Currently the headliner among gay-related cold cases is Robert Wone's murder in Washington D.C. Unsolved since 2006, it has just gotten a big new surge of public attention. More after the jump.

LGBT-related cold cases can be divided into two categories: those where one or more of us are victims, and those where one or more of us are perpetrators. Some police departments have knocked themselves out to solve murders of gay people, while others have been apathetic or callously inactive about investigating when we're the victims. In Los Angeles, last I heard, a lone LAPD detective was still grinding away at the unsolved 1994 murder of gay political figure Jon Simmons.

Conversely -- some gay media have a huge distaste for covering cases where one of us is the perp. One possible reason: Butchering somebody in cold blood doesn't fit the conventional image that many of us cherish, of the benign and pacifist queer. Another reason for gay media to shun coverage: they find it uncomfortable to have to talk openly about the dark side of LGBT sex life, which is often a factor in these cases.

The Robert Wone case has been unfamiliar to many of us because gay media have mostly avoided covering it. Why? Probably because Robert Wone was a distinguished Asian-American resident of Washington D.C. who was found dead at the home of three gay housemates, also prominent figures in D.C. The gay housemates are major "persons of interest" in the case, but as yet no murder charges are filed against anybody. There are many perplexing features about this case -- so many that I won't try to list them here.

A few weeks ago, tending the flame of the unsolved Wone case was taken up by four D.C. gay male residents who have stepped forward as citizen investigators and are determined to help law enforcement find justice for Wone. They invite wider participation by "law jocks" -- lawyers, judges, ex cops, fans of cold cases -- anybody who might bring a quirk of creative thought that will help unravel this strange case. Their fascinating blogsite has frequent updates.

Our own Bilerico DC has stepped up to the plate, with its own coverage of the Wone investigation.

Other Notable Cold Cases

For those Bilerico readers who want to know more about LGBT-related cold cases, below are links to news stories about a few notorious ones, that I've garnered from Google. The list below is not intended to be complete, but it includes cases from Australia and Canada as well as the U.S. Some have been solved recently; others are still tragically unsolved.

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Great article Patricia.

As a person who has experienced the loss and tragedy of a family member that was murdered, it rips away part of your soul. Then on many occasions you are victimized all over again by the police, media and the bias that come with it.

Where is the gay media in all of this?

Anthony in Nashville | March 11, 2009 5:58 PM

The Wone case seems to be getting more attention lately. I'm not in DC but what little I've read makes no sense.

What was Wone doing in that house? In my experience, a straight man is not trying to spend the night in a house owned by 3 gay men. How was it possible for the people who live there to claim not to know what happened?

It certainly seems like there are a bunch of "dirty little secrets" keeping the truth from being revealed. | March 12, 2009 10:19 AM

Hey Patricia! Sounds like some great book material in some of these cases.

How about teaming up with these investigators? Maybe you could do what Dominick Dunn did in reviving interest in the Moxley murder.


Great post Patricia.

One minor clarification though... The Transgender Day Of Remembrance website was created to honor the memories of all murdered trans people, regardless of whether the cases were solved or not. Though sadly, many of them to do remain unsolved.

FWIW, it think it would be good to create an equivalent LGB Day memorial site as well (or if there is one, I'm not aware of it). Last TDOR I wanted to also mention those victims of hate crimes as well, but couldn't seem to find anywhere that I could point people to.

Please check out the Gay American Heroes Foundation at for info on an organization which is dedicated to building a National Memorial -
"To honor and remember LGBT victims of hate crimes.
To engage and inform the public about hate crimes against LGBT persons.
To inspire compassion and greater appreciation and acceptance of diversity."