3 motives surface in strangulation

Friday, October 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Michael Carpenter
UNION TOWNSHIP -- Lost amid this week's national debates over the issue of violence against homosexuals is a married churchgoing man from a nice Cincinnati suburb.

The life -- and death -- of 42-year-old Michael Carpenter is an unlikely footnote to the emotionally charged issue that has dominated local talk radio.

A second source in the Union Township police department confirmed Thursday they are considering three possible motives for the strangulation death of Mr. Carpenter, who was seen hours before his death at a downtown bar frequented by gay men.

The motives relate to his apparent bisexuality, which his wife, Marie, had acknowledged to police early in the investigation, Sgt. Michael McMillan told The Enquirer. It was Mrs. Carpenter who discovered her husband's body last weekend in the bedroom of their Clermont County home, tied up and beaten.

Police suspect that:

  • Mr. Carpenter might have been the target of gay-bashing

  • He might have fallen victim to a "hustler" who accompanied, or followed, him home

  • Or a jealous lover was involved.

Items were stolen from the home and police haven't ruled out robbery as a primary motive, but Union Township police Sgt. Terry Zinser said Thursday the three scenarios are part of their investigation. He added there is no indication Mrs. Carpenter was involved. "The gay community has been more than cooperative, making themselves available for interviews," Sgt. Zinser said.

The brutal beating death of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay University of Wyoming student found tied to a fence earlier this month, reignited the debate between those who say gay-rights legislation is necessary to stem hate crimes and those who believe existing law is sufficient. Some, but not all, critics of such proposals cite Bible references condemning homosexuality.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to a 1993 amendment to Cincinnati's charter that prohibits the extension of specific protection to gays and lesbians.

On Thursday, Joel Carpenter of Wassau, Wis., prepared for his son's burial today in Wausau.

Reached by The Enquirer at his home in the small central Wisconsin city where his son was born and raised, the elder Mr. Carpenter said he was unaware of his son's sexual preferences.

"He was never involved in anything like that that I know of. It might be that someone followed him home," the father said in a low voice. "He's the only son I had."

The elder Mr. Carpenter wanted to express to Cincinnatians the family's gratitude for all those who have aided police in the investigation.

Michael Carpenter grew up attending St. Paul's Evangelical Church in Wausau, where his love of church music was nurtured. He later moved to the Trinity Lutheran Church there and continued to be active in church functions, including out-of-state retreats and music functions, he on organ, his wife on trumpet.

The Carpenters were married Aug. 16, 1986. Both taught Sunday school, the elder Mr. Carpenter recalled. About four years ago, the couple moved to Cincinnati.

That departure left a void.

"There are a lot of flowers up here for him," the father said. Memorials may be made to St. Mark Lutheran Church Music Department, 5849 Buckwheat Rd., Milford, Ohio 45150. Reporter Christine Wolff contributed to this story.

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