Beating and leaving him naked in trash bin was
Waverly, Ohio--Two of the men accused of beating a deaf gay restaurant worker to death last fall were indicted and arraigned on more severe charges, and both entered “not guilty” pleas on December 10.
Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk called the murder of 39-year-old Daniel Fetty an anti-gay hate crime. A grand jury re-indicted Martin E. Baxter, 28, and Matthew W. Ferman, 22, on two counts of aggravated murder, and one each of aggravated robbery, abduction and tampering with evidence.
A third man, James Trent Jr., 19, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter on December 5. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and is expected to testify against the other two.
Police investigating a report of a fight at about 1 am on October 2 found Fetty lying naked in a trash bin behind a building in downtown Waverly, about 50 miles south of Columbus. He had been beaten with bricks, boards and bottles and thrown into the bin. His clothes were not in the container with him.
Fetty was rushed to the hospital, then transferred by helicopter to Grant Hospital in Columbus before dying around noon.
While Junk said from the beginning that his office was actively pursuing the possibility that the murder was a hate crime, Waverly police chief Larry Roe insisted that it was a robbery, and that is what his department was investigating.
Ohio does not have a hate crime law. The closest legislation on the books is an ethnic intimidation law covering several misdemeanors, the most severe being telephone harassment. Sexual orientation is not included in that measure.
When originally indicted on October 8, the trio faced a single charge each of aggravated murder. Baxter and Ferman now face capital murder charges, as well as aggravated murder in connection with the aggravated robbery. Both can result in the death penalty, although each man can only be convicted of one of the two murder charges.
Their trials were set to begin on December 13, but were delayed to December 27. With the new indictments, Ferman and Baxter’s bonds were revoked, and both men will remain in custody until trial. The delay is needed to bring public defenders certified in death penalty cases on board to defend Ferman and Baxter.
Baxter spoke to the Columbus Dispatch’s Rita Price out of earshot of his attorney. According to the Chillicothe Gazette’s Daniel Prazer, bailiffs noted that Baxter started speaking to Price when he was away from his lawyer.
The defendant expressed confusion over the charges, noting that the indictment is “taller than I am.”
According to Baxter’s rambling statement to Price, the three men were at a bar, possibly the one in Emmitt House, the restaurant where Daniel Fetty worked. It is across the street from the building with the trash bin where he was found.
Fetty was also there, “buying drinks,” Baxter told Price, when Ferman accused him of stealing his cigarettes. The four went outside, and they then attacked Fetty.
Baxter claimed the attack was carried out by Trent and Ferman and that it was over the missing cigarettes, not based on Fetty’s sexual orientation. However, Baxter also said that he was drunk and had been doing cocaine.
“Daniel wouldn’t do something like that in the first place,” Kathy Houseman, a waitress at Emmitt House, told the Columbus Dispatch. “If he’d wanted a cigarette, he’d ask for one. He wouldn’t take something.”
Fetty, whose apartment had burned a few weeks before his murder, had been living in his car while working to raise enough money for a new apartment.
Junk’s courtroom categorization of the murder as a hate crime pleased Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, who was at the arraignment with Fetty’s mother and sister.
“I’m very pleased that Mr. Junk is being so public about viewing this as being hate-motivated,” she said.
McCauley noted some striking similarities between Fetty’s murder and that of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming college student whose death sparked a nationwide call for sexual orientation-inclusive hate crime laws.
“The sheer physical viciousness of the attack, the overkill for something so seemingly minor, in this case, ostensibly a pack of cigarettes, the cruelty of what was done after the attacks,” she said. “In Shepard’s case, being tied to a fence; in Daniel’s, being stripped and put in a Dumpster, there are similarities.”
“It really shook me up, both because I knew Daniel and because of the viciousness of the attacks,” she concluded.
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