FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ An Army private accused of bludgeoning a fellow soldier to death with a baseball bat went on trial Tuesday, with military prosecutors saying for the first time that the victim was killed because he was thought to be gay.
Pvt. Calvin N. Glover, 18, of Sulphur, Okla., is charged with premeditated murder in the slaying of Pfc. Barry L. Winchell, 21, in July.
Before the start of the court-martial, Glover admitted to a lesser charge of unpremeditated murder. But prosecutor Capt. Gregg Engler pressed on with the court-martial, seeking to prove the more serious charge.
Engler said he would show premeditation by introducing evidence that Glover hates gays and suspected that Winchell was homosexual.
``The overall feelings of hatred toward these classes or groups shows the motive,″ the prosecutor said in describing racial, ethnic and anti-gay comments attributed to Glover.
Premeditated and unpremeditated murder carry the same maximum sentence: life in prison without parole, plus a dishonorable discharge.
Glover sobbed while recalling the killing to Col. Gary J. Holland, the judge. He said he did not know why he hit Winchell ``at least two or three times″ with a bat during the July 5 attack in their Fort Campbell barracks.
Glover said that he had been drinking before the attack and that another intoxicated soldier, Spec. Justin R. Fisher, encouraged him to use the bat to avenge a punch Winchell gave Glover during a party.
``I wasn’t really mad at him, sir. It was just a mistake, sir. I was really drunk,″ Glover told the judge.
For months, gay-rights advocates said anti-homosexual sentiment at least contributed to the killing, but the military would not comment on that.
Winchell, who was from Kansas City, Mo., was perceived as gay by some soldiers in his unit, and friends said he had recently visited a gay bar in Nashville.
Rhonda White, co-chairwoman of Lesbian & Gay Coalition for Justice in Nashville, Tenn., was an observer at the court-martial. She said other gay-rights groups are also watching the case closely.
``We want our citizens, gay and straight, to feel safe with members of the military coming into our community,″ she said.
Fisher, 25, of Lincoln, Neb., who was Winchell’s roommate, will be court-martialed at Fort Campbell on Monday. In addition to allegedly goading Glover into attacking Winchell, Fisher is accused of lying to Army investigators.
Winchell, Glover and Fisher all served in the 502nd Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion at Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee state line about 50 miles from Nashville.
Winchell’s mother and stepfater, Pat and Wally Kutteles, issued a statement Tuesday regarding the ``thousands of messages of support″ they had received from soldiers and civilians.
``The messages have bolstered our morale and reinforced our belief in the true goodness and humanity of our fellow Americans,″ they said.