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June 27, 2008

Police arrest two in stabbing near Detroit Ave. bar

Cleveland--Within days of the stabbing death of a gay man on the city’s west side, police have arrested two suspects.

Kelsey Stanford, 31, was at the Hawk bar on Detroit Ave. with his lover Rob Abruzzino on Monday night June 16, playing pool as they often did.

The two had a drink and Stanford went outside to have a cigarette. He returned shortly, after having trouble getting money out of a nearby ATM. Once it was pointed out to him that he had tried the wrong card, he went back and took out $200, Abruzzino said.

Abruzzino racked another game of pool, but then he couldn’t find Stanford.

According to police, Stanford was lured to an apartment on West 112th St. around the corner from the bar. There, people overheard him talking about the amount of money he was carrying, and he was stabbed repeatedly.

He managed to get away from his assailants and left the building, but collapsed at the corner of West 112th Street and Detroit Ave.

Abruzzino, who was looking for Stanford outside, heard sirens and saw the commotion at the corner.

Police and an ambulance arrived, and Stanford was taken to the MetroHealth Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:07 am June 17.

Police arrested Albert Spann and Claudette Kidd, both of whom have been charged with aggravated murder.

Cleveland Police public information officer Lt. Thomas Stacho referred to the attack as “good old-fashioned robbery and greed,” and said that there was no reason to believe that Stanford’s sexual orientation was a factor in the attack.

Abruzzino noted that Stanford was robbed of the money that he had just gotten from the ATM, but not his wallet or jewelry. That is consistent with an attempt to quickly steal what would be easiest to use, and also with Stanford’s escape from the apartment.

According to Abruzzino, five of Stanford’s siblings came to town on June 23 to claim the body, which was cremated the following morning and flown back to his mother in Egan, Louisiana, where Stanford was born.

He attended Iota High School miles away, where he was a strong student, studying horticulture. Stanford went on to study nursing at Daytona Beach Community College.

Stanford joked that he and his family got along better long-distance.

This was his second tenure in Cleveland; he had stopped through for a stay about ten years ago, and this time he had been here for a year.

“He was a generous man who never had a bad word to say about anyone,” said Abruzzino. “He didn’t have a lot to give, but he’d share what he had.”

In addition to plants and nursing, he was also interested in art, primarily in sculpting and creating charcoal drawings.

He was also a very good cook, according to Abruzzino. “It would cost him $100 to make you a meal, but it would be worth every cent.”

A Catholic, he usually wore a St. Christopher’s medal, but had lost it shortly before the night he was killed.

“I found it for him three or four times since the beginning of the year,” Abruzzino said.

“He was feeling a little down that night and I had gotten his friends to come over and hug him and get him cheered up a little bit,” he continued. “Kelsey was a social butterfly; he didn’t sit on a barstool, he was constantly floating around, talking to people, playing pool. That’s how he got out of my sight for a minute like that.”

The Hawk was a regular haunt for the Fairview Park couple, where they would play pool and hang out with friends. Abruzzino recalls that Stanford’s favorite shot was Rumple Minze, and his favorite song was Pink’s “Who Knew?”

That point came up this week, as Stanford’s siblings stopped at the bar before leaving for Louisiana. They had a shot and a beer in their brother’s memory, and inquired about his choice in music.

Stanford’s relatives left Chloe, his Pomeranian, with Abruzzino, who has cared for her for the last year during their relationship.

While there are thoughts of having a memorial service here in Cleveland, the wounds are too fresh for Abruzzino to plan anything yet.

“Hundreds of people have contacted me over this, friends, people who just knew him,” he said. “I don’t think you could find anybody that could say anything bad about him.”

“Some of the love letters that I’ve read of his are very revealing. The two lovers he had before me, he still stayed in touch with them because he has that impact on them,” he continued. “You can’t know Kelsey and not have him in your life forever.”


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