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Accused Teen Claims Self Defense In Killing Of Gay Men

February 8, 1995

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) _ Marvin McClendon admitted that he gunned down two homosexual men, but only after they trapped him in their vehicle and demanded he submit to sex, a detective testified Wednesday.

``I panicked and shot the driver in the head,″ the 17-year-old said in a statement read at his murder trial by officer Marvin Lindsey.

According to Lindsey, McClendon said he then turned the pistol on the second man because ``he appeared to be reaching under the seat.″

The murders shocked residents of this usually quiet, Bible Belt community and attracted the attention of gay civil rights groups.

Prosecutors say robbery was the motive and that McClendon took $100 from the men before killing them.

District Attorney Jeannene Pacific also said McClendon, who is black, boasted of killing two white men and played cards with friends shortly after the deaths.

McClendon, however, claimed he shot Joseph Shoemake and Robert Walters because he feared being raped and exposed to the AIDS virus. Their bodies were found Oct. 8 near an isolated railroad track.

The case also has raised racial issues. McClendon’s first trial was canceled last week because the 70-member jury pool lacked enough black members. The 12-member panel seated Tuesday included five blacks.

Lindsey quoted McClendon as saying in his statement to police that the incident began when he agreed to take the men to purchase marijuana. Instead, McClendon told officers, the two drove him to a rural area.

``The driver turned up the radio and rolled up the windows,″ McClendon is quoted as saying in the statement. ``I asked them to let me go four or five times.″ He said one of the men offered him $20 for sex and he refused.

``The driver said, `Now, nigger, you’re going to get it,‴ McClendon is quoted as saying.

The statement said McClendon started shooting after one of the men grabbed his leg.

Two of McClendon’s friends were among the first witnesses as the trial opened Tuesday. Both said McClendon told them he had shot the men.

Michael Pruitt, also 17, said he was propositioned by two men driving through McClendon’s neighborhood the night before the bodies were found.

``Two white dudes pulled up and asked me if I wanted some action,″ he said.

Defense attorney J. Ronald Parrish said in opening statements that Shoemake and Walters ``were trolling the streets of Laurel, looking for someone to pick up.″

He compared them to predators. ``There was no murder,″ he said.

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