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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Nadleeh: A Short, Young Life

Mother Grieves and Works for Anti-Hate Crime Legislation

[CORTEZ, CO] - Pauline Mitchell brushed away the tall, skinny stalks of dried grass that flutters near the site where her son, Fred C. Martinez Jr., was killed a year ago in a small canyon known as "The Pits."

"This is where I think he tried to escape," Mitchell said as she pointed to a small cliff that leads to a ledge of light-colored rocks. "There was a trail of his blood on the rocks. I think they chased him down and then beat him with rocks."

Pauline Mitchell holds a picture of her late son Fred Martinez, a Navajo transgendered, who was murdered last June in Cortez, Colo.

Tears welled up in her red, swollen eyes as she remembered her son, a 16-year-old Navajo transgender, who was killed a year ago on June 16 by Shawn Murphy of Farmington, N.M., at the undeveloped site near a trailer park south of Cortez.

The site is less than a mile from Mitchell's mother's home.

"If (Murphy) had feelings he could of called for help," Mitchell, 46, said. "He could of said, 'There's a person hurt down there...'"

Mitchell's voice catches and she continues to cry, standing at the site where her son died alone from a blunt force head injury and an incised wound to his abdomen, according to news reports.

Mitchell, who has lived in Durango for the last 10 years, constructed her own personal memorial at the site for her son with a cross, a heart and numerous colorful, plastic flowers given to her in Martinez's memory.

"All this time he was laying there," Mitchell said.

Left to die

Martinez, who was fondly known as "F.C." to his family members and close friends, was found June 21, five days after he was left to die from his fatal injuries.

Martinez's killer, Murphy, 19, was sentenced June 3 to 40 years in prison at the Montezuma County Courthouse by 22nd Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Hansen.

Murphy, who has changed his story about the fatal beating, pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to second-degree murder in the death of Martinez.

"I don't have no feelings for Shawn Murphy," Mitchell said. "He killed my son."

Mitchell had asked Judge Hansen for the maximum 48-year sentence during the sentencing hearing.

Murphy, who has an "anger problem," is no stranger to turmoil.

The troubled Murphy, who is a sixth grade dropout, showed no emotion in the courtroom until he took his final walk to prison to start his 40-year sentence, according to news reports.

That's when Murphy cried.

Murphy, an East Side Locos Trece gang member, tried to escape from jail, threatened guards and fought with other inmates, according to news reports.

A parolee, Murphy was taught to hate his absent father by his mother and was a drug dealer. Additionally, Murphy was repeatedly charged with assault when he beat his own stepbrother to unconsciousness, according to news reports.

Murphy's background shows he has served time at a security youth facility, and was even charged as a child for assaulting a police officer, slamming a man's head into a wall and hitting a drunken man with a beer bottle.

Murphy's dramatic sentencing hearing included a mercy plea by his grandmother, who suffered a heart attack during the hearing.

The grandmother's collapse delayed Murphy's sentencing hearing for 25 minutes while the courtroom was cleared and paramedics stabilized her, according to news reports.

The grandmother was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital and later released.

The truth

Mitchell, who has had two heart attacks due to the trauma experienced by the loss of her son, the youngest of six sons, said she wants the truth to be known about her son.

"My son is beautiful, he's not going to be treated like that," Mitchell said as grief overcame her. "To me, my son meant a lot to me ... I don't think the pain will ever wear off."

Martinez, who would have been 17 in March, was an outspoken boy, laughing and joking all the time.

"He never saw another person as a stranger, but as a fellow human being and was always ready to give a hug or compliment to anyone whom he believed to be hurting," she said.

Martinez, who was a free spirit, cherished his many friends and loved to do make-up with his girlfriends.

About four years ago, Mitchell observed a change in her then 13-year-old son when he was in middle school.

"He started changing, wearing makeup," Mitchell said. "First eyebrow pencil ... later on curling his hair, putting more makeup on, and putting on nail polish."

Then he carried a purse, but other than that "he dressed as a typical junior high school kid."

Mitchell said some newspapers reported untrue things about her son. Mitchell said her son never wore dresses or used the women's restroom.

Her son had a lot of difficulties in his young, short life.

A nadleeh

"Much of this was related to the fact that he was a Navajo living in a world that does not honor and respect different ways, and also that he was nadleeh, Two Spirit, and he could comfortably walk the path of both male and female."

"It is not easy to grow up as a Navajo, nadleeh and poor," Mitchell said. "He was not ashamed of who he was and neither was I."

The last time Mitchell saw her son was on Saturday, June 16, 2001, the night of the Ute Mountain Rodeo in Cortez. Martinez was going to the carnival with some friends a mile away from Mitchell's house.

"The next time I saw him was to identify his body, at the funeral home," Mitchell said. "I had to identify that body by the hair-band F.C. had been wearing ... this happened to my son and no way am I going to let that go."

Some of Mitchell's own questions about her son's death are unanswered.

Mitchell said her son was 6'1'', and Murphy is short.

"How could someone so small take on my son?" Mitchell said, adding that there had to be more than one person who beat Martinez.

Martinez was also afraid of the dark, Mitchell said.

"There's no way Fred ran into the dark canyon ... they dragged him there," Mitchell said.

Mitchell read a three-page speech during the Murphy sentencing during which members of Murphy's extended family wept.

"(Mr. Murphy), you took my son away from me in the most vicious way I can imagine," Mitchell said in her written statement. "You knew you beat him with a rock and you felt it break his skull ... and my son lay there for a week and all you said about it was that you had 'bug-smashed a fag.' I think you should be put to death for that."

Mitchell told a stoic Murphy that he "stole my son's life, you broke my family, and you broke my heart."

Memory of a son

Knowing now that her son is with her in spirit gives her some comfort, but the grief and trauma of losing him continues to take a toll on her mental, emotional and physical health and well-being.

"He's with me," Mitchell said as she motioned to her heart.

Mitchell remembers when her son would tell her he would travel and take her places like Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.

"'I'll take you there, mom,''' Mitchell recalled. "Now I'm the one who has (been traveling) where I talked to groups about hate crimes."

To honor her son's memory, Mitchell has lobbied senators in Washington for anti-hate crime legislation and makes public speaking engagements with regional and national gay and lesbian rights groups.

"It has been a difficult and grueling year for Pauline Mitchell and her family," said Denise de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. "The evidence presented by the prosecution and the strong and emotional victim impact statement read by (Mitchell) to the court clearly convinced the judge of the profound impact of the loss of Fred's family and community."

Members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community organization, 4 Corners Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Diversity, have been working closely with Mitchell since last June, said John Peters-Campbell, 4cGLAD board member from Cortez.

"One can't be really be completely satisfied in a situation like this," he said, "but Pauline is at peace with the verdict, and it's as good a result as we could have hoped for ... Shawn Murphy will spend most of his adult life in jail."

To contribute to the Fred Martinez Memorial Fund, donations can be made to

Citizens State Bank of Cortez
P.O. Box Draw T
Cortez, Colo. 81321

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