(WB) Chesterfield County, Va., police are calling on the LGBT community for help in their investigation into the murder of a 67-year-old gay man who was found stabbed to death on April 21 in his apartment in a section of Chesterfield near Richmond.
Police said they believe Bruce M. Garnett, who family members say was active in gay rights advocacy in the late 1970s and 1980s, had been dead in his apartment in the 700 block of Chinaberry Drive in Chesterfield for several weeks before police found his body.
“Police responded just before 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 21, to check the welfare of a man who had not been seen in several weeks,” a police statement says. “Upon entry to his residence, officers located the man, who was confirmed deceased by EMS personnel,” the statement says.
Garnett’s brother, Bill Garnett, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his brother was an early pioneer for gay rights in Virginia and helped form the Gay Rights Association in Richmond. The Times-Dispatch quoted a 1978 newsletter published by the Richmond Gay Rights Association as saying Bruce Garnett was the “first openly gay man” to lobby the Virginia General Assembly on LGBT-related issues.
Capt. Mike Louth of the Chesterfield County Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that due to the ongoing investigation he could not currently disclose certain details such as whether police found evidence of a forced entry into Garnett’s apartment.
In past cases where gay men have been found murdered inside their homes in D.C. and other cities police often have found no signs of a forced entry, leading them to believe the victim knew his killer and invited the attacker into his home.
Louth said he also could not disclose whether investigators in the Garnett case have examined a computer or other device belonging to Garnett to determine whether he might have arranged to meet someone on a gay Internet dating site. Organizations that monitor anti-LGBT violence have said gay murders in recent years have been linked to online sites where men meet other men for sex.
“We’re still trying to establish some of those things,” Louth said. “We’re still pretty early in the investigation. We’re still trying to play catch up a little bit as far as what all happened here because, as we said in the press release, we believe he had been there at least a couple of weeks.”
Detectives have talked to nearby residents and others to determine if “anyone has seen or heard anything unusual that would help us out as well as identify any potential suspects, to establish a timeline of events,” he said.
“And we would certainly ask anyone that knew him or had any contact with him in the last little bit that they reach out to us and talk with one of our detectives,” Louth told the Blade.
The Times-Dispatch and other Richmond-area news media outlets have reported Garnett’s brother, who has lived in Taiping, Malaysia, for the past several years, as saying Garnett had been somewhat isolated at his apartment in recent times and he didn’t know who his brother’s friends were.
Louth said police would very much like to talk to his friends or acquaintances, saying members of the LGBT community who knew Garnett need not worry about anti-LGBT bias on the part of the police.
“At the end of the day we have a man who has been a victim of a homicide and regardless of anything else we want to make sure justice is done and whoever did this to Mr. Garnett is held accountable,” Louth said. “So we’re going to be true to him, true to this case and do the right thing here.”
Louth said anyone with information about the case is asked to call the general police investigative number at 804-748-1268 or Chesterfield Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660, through which information can be provided anonymously.
— Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade courtesy of the LGBTQ National Media Association.