Two Arrested, One at Large in Hate Attack on Neighbors
[COLUMBUS, OH] - A woman is being held on eight charges, a minor is on probation and a third assailant is still at large in a July 11 anti-gay beating in the Weinland Park area, east of the Ohio State University campus.
The three victims of the attack, a lesbian, Katherine Neudecker, her transgender partner Dawn Kereluik, and their gay male neighbor sustained extensive injuries ranging from a broken cheekbone to a bruised liver.
The incident happened around 7 pm on Thursday, July 11. Kereluik and Neudecker told police that Keba Franklin, 27, who lives two houses down from the women, and two males approached as they were gardening in front of their house and yelled at them, "You don't belong here."
Their neighbor intervened, prompting one of the assailants to yell, "I'm going to pull out a knife and slit you from top to bottom and watch your guts spill out, faggot."
The couple's three children, ages nine, ten and twelve, were in the house at the time, but did not witness the incident.
Kereluik then went into her house and called 911. She was told that police would not be able to arrive for 30 minutes. In the meantime, she said, the attack escalated and the assailants began throwing rocks. Neudecker was dragged into the street, where Franklin allegedly punched her in the face several times while a male assailant held her. Neudecker sustained a broken nose and severe bruising from the attack.
When Kereluik tried to stop this, the women said, one of the men punched and kicked her until she was unconscious. telling Neudecker, "We're going to kill your bitch, you fucking dyke." Kereluik suffered severe bruising, a cracked right orbital bone, a ruptured vessel in her eye, a broken foot and a laceration on her left ear.
The neighbor was then attacked, causing trauma to his liver and the loss of four teeth. The assault was finally brought to an end with the help of the neighbor's brother-in-law.
When police arrived 20 minutes after the 911 call, Franklin and the minor were taken into custody. The third attacker fled.
Kereluik said that she did not know why the three chose that time to attack them. She had never met any of them before, and was unaware until later that Franklin lived two doors away.
The couple have lived there for several months.
In a July 23 hearing, bail for Franklin was set at $150,000 for a total of eight charges, including three counts of assault, two counts of aggravated menacing and three counts of ethnic intimidation. Ethnic intimidation is charged when it is believed that an attack was motivated by prejudice, such as racist or anti-gay hatred. Her trial is set for August 19.
The minor was given probation for the attack. Kereluik and Neudecker believe that the light sentence may be a result of their inability to attend the hearing and deliver a victim statement, since both the minor's and Franklin's hearings were at the same time.
The second male attacker is still at large and has yet to be identified.
Although Neudecker's injuries have mostly healed, she may require surgery on her nose for a deviated septum. Kereluik, however, will be under a doctor's care for the next four weeks, and will be unable to work until then.
"We feel trapped," Kereluik said. "We would lose our deposit if we moved, and I'm not physically able to move right now."
Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, is particularly concerned by the frequency of anti-LGBT attacks in this neighborhood.
"This is the third reported attack on a transgender woman in recent weeks," she said. "The brutality of this attack and the severity of the injuries is extremely alarming. This is a neighborhood in transition as more openly LGBT folks are moving in. BRAVO has been seeing an increase in reports of anti-LGBT activity in this neighborhood for the last year."
"Gloria has been very supportive," Kereluik noted. "She's shown up at all the hearings, she's been there when Kathy needed someone to talk to."
Kereluik also pointed out that, while Neudecker's physical injuries were less severe and have mostly healed, her emotional ones are more insidious, having watched as Kereluik was beaten.
"I was unconscious for a lot of it," Kereluik said. "She had to watch them beating me, wondering if they were going to kill me."
While their daughters had to see the horrible after-effects of the assault, according to Kereluik, "We've pretty much tried to shield them from this as much as possible. They're very cautious about going out; we've had a long talk with them about it. They've seen the people around us be very supportive and appalled at what happened."
Perhaps the only bright spot of the last three weeks for the couple is their marriage. As of press time, they were going to be married at 2 pm on July 31.
Since Kereluik was born a man, under Ohio law she is still a man and can legally marry Neudecker. Kereluik had already verified her documentation and the couple has checked to make sure they can get a marriage license.
Sgt. Earl Smith, public information officer for the Columbus Police Department, responded to questions about the response time to the incident.
"We are now receiving 2 million calls per year, and it's going up 10,000 calls per month," he noted. "The cars go from run to run to run across the city. It's a finite service."
The attack occurred in the evening, a busier time for the police than others during the day, he said.
"It's a triage for requests for service," Smith said of the dispatch office which takes the 911 calls. "When someone calls, our first concern is, is there at that moment an immediate risk?"
He also noted that being very specific about the criminal activity occurring can help with dispatch speed, although the Columbus police answer a wider variety of calls than many other large municipalities.
"We're one of the few cities our size that respond to the range of calls we do," Smith expounded. "Some cities won't send cars to burglaries that have already occurred, but we think that's inappropriate."