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March 28, 2008

Florida activist, from Mansfield, killed in murder-suicide

West Palm Beach, Fla.--A prominent bar owner and LGBT advocate from Ohio was killed in a murder-suicide on March 19 or 20.

Michael Brown, 50, originally from Mansfield, owned H.G. Roosters, a long-standing gay bar in town.

At 5 pm on Friday, March 21, employees at the bar, who had been unable to reach Brown since Wednesday, called police, who went to his apartment.

There, they made a grisly discovery: his erstwhile boyfriend Brant Hines, 27, had apparently stabbed Brown to death late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Then, late Thursday or early Friday, Hines hung himself from a leather strap outside the bedroom door.

Having grown up in Mansfield, Brown moved to Florida 24 years ago after visiting a friend there. His H.G. Roosters club served as a centerpoint of the area’s LGBT community for two decades. Tony Plakas, the former director of the Compass LGBT Center of Palm Beach County, attributed its existence to Brown. He was also a Pride parade grand marshal in 1997.

“He was somebody who connected everybody in Palm Beach County,” Plakas said. “The guy is somebody who everybody would think was family.”

“It wasn’t about a money-making venue,” friend Tim Carey told the Palm Beach Post of Brown’s work at Roosters. “It was about making sure that gay people had a place to go and feel comfortable.”

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Hines and Brown had a shaky history.

“Apparently they had an on-again, off-again relationship,” said Lt. Chuck Reed of the West Palm Beach Police Department. “It was somewhat of a volatile relationship even when it was on.”

“We believe it was the result of a violent domestic disturbance,” he said.

A neighbor heard them quarreling on Wednesday, March 19, and Hines was seen walking Brown’s dogs the next day, sporting a black eye.

Becky Peters, Brown’s sister, said she knew Hines and told her brother he was using him for money and shelter.

Brown replied, “I wouldn’t put a homeless dog out in the street and I certainly wouldn’t do it to a person.”

 


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