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Tuesday, December 10

Gapers Block

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A man's body was found dead in his Boystown apartment yesterday morning, and this afternoon police ruled it a homicide. Forest Cowley, a businessman who ran Cubs souvenir stands in Wrigleyville and had recently opened a storefront in Century Centre, had been missing for two weeks before his body was discovered in his apartment at Cornelia and Broadway. Police aren't necessarily linking Cowley's murder to that of Kevin Clewer, who was stabbed to death in his apartment on Elaine Place, a block away, in March, or to Brad Winters, who was killed in his Lincoln Park apartment last August, but it's hard to resist making a connection. Both Clewer and Winters were gay men who brought home a stranger from a Boystown bar before they were found murdered; police are still searching for the main suspect in Clewer's murder, and Winters' death remains unsolved. Whether Cowley's death is related or not, you might want to be careful who you bring home.

Originally, the last line of this post read, "Whether Cowley's death is related or not, gay men, you might want to rethink your one-night stands." We received a couple of e-mails of complaint in , accusing me and/or Gapers Block of being "presumptuous," "insulting," and "possibl[y] homophobic." If I may, I'd like to respond.

This is the sort of thing I'd post on my own blog and no one would bat an eye—in fact, I did post it on my blog, and no one batted an eye—but I should have realized that GB readers don't all know me that well. I am myself a gay man who lives in Lakeview/Boystown. My exhortation to "reconsider your one-night stands" was intended as a humorous way of saying, "be careful who you bring home." Here's what I wrote to the first respondent Wednesday night:

"Itís true that thereís no hard evidence that the Clewer case was a hookup gone wrong. But the 'person of interest' the Chicago PD has been looking for in that case, the one whose sketch you see posted all over the neighborhood, was upgraded to 'prime suspect' last week. Clewer was not just seen talking to the suspect; two witnesses told police that Clewer and the suspect left the bar together and headed in the direction of Clewerís home. Several news stories have also noted that the suspect is known to work as a hustler, although police have stressed that this was not *necessarily* the case that night. All of this information can be found in this story at NBC5 and this one at the Trib.

"Police have also stressed that there is no physical evidence linking Clewerís murder with Brad Wintersí, but there is a perception in the community that the deaths were certainly similar, in that both men were found dead in their own apartments, naked, with multiple stab wounds, and no evidence of forced entry (link).

"After some community activists drew attention to the similarities, the CPD met with community leaders and 'issued community alert warnings against taking strangers home,' as recounted in Laura Washingtonís Sun-Times column here.

"Iíll grant you that very little information has been released yet regarding Forest Cowleyís murder, but given the proximity and surface similarities to Clewerís death, my thoughts went immediately to a connection. Iím not alone, in fact; I made the post on GB after overhearing a conversation this afternoon on the very subject, and some gay media outlets are making the connection as well, as in the headline 'Has Gay Manís Killer Struck Again?' here.

"Also, for what itís worth, Iím a gay man myself. Iím not trying to hide behind some double standard of 'I can say it but they canít,' but I would like you to know that what I wrote came from being a part of the community concerned by this. While I certainly didnít want to be seen as insulting, I realized I was walking a fine line of stereotyping with what I said. But stereotypes do come from somewhere, as they say; I decided 'better safe than sorry' was the way to go.

"I hope Iíve answered some of your concerns. Thanks so much for taking the time to write us about this. Itís great to know we have readers who care so deeply about what we say."

- (KV)

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