Radioman Petty Officer Allen R. Schindler was beaten to death in a public restroom on October 27, 1992. Of his two assailants, only one—Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey—was given a life sentence after pleading guilty to murdering the 22-year-old. His accomplice, Airman Charles Vins, accepted a plea bargain from naval investigators; in exchange for testifying against Helvey, Vins served only 78 days in jail and received a general discharge in June 1993.
An almost 900-page report from the US Navy, via activist Michael Petrelis, details Schindler’s struggles to discharge from the Navy, the brutal attack by Helvey and Vins, and the military’s attempts to cover up the murder.
Schindler was stationed in Sasebo, Japan at a time when one’s sexuality was grounds for automatic discharge. While running for president, Bill Clinton had promised to lift the ban on gay servicemembers only to sign into law the following year, 1993, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as a compromise with Congress.
In this hostile environment, Schindler kept a diary—also included in the report—of the daily abuses he faced. Schindler had even complained to the ship’s captain and asked for a discharge, but the captain instead cruelly discussed the matter in front of Schindler’s peers.
While their ship was docked in Sasebo, Helvey, with Vins as an accomplice, stomped Schindler to death in a public restroom, leaving a near unrecognizable corpse:
His head was bashed repeatedly against a urinal so violently that the porcelain broke. Schindler’s own mother, Dorothy Hadjys, was unable to identify the mutilated and disfigured corpse.
The Navy initially refused to release Schindler’s diary, denied that they had received any complaints of harassment, refused to speak publicly on the case and refused to release the Japanese police report on the murder. Helvey tried to deny that he had killed Schindler because he was gay, but a witness quoted him as saying that he was “disgusted” by homosexuals, adding, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again….He deserved it.”
Helvey struck a plea bargain sparing him from the death penalty, but sentencing him to life in prison. While Vins escaped with minimal jail time, the captain of the ship —who had ignored Schindler’s complaints and tried to cover up the murder—practically got off scot-free: he was transfered to shore leave in Florida.
“Allen Schindler was destined to become yet another gay man killed and forgotten,” Petrelis said in a statement. “Now, 23 years after his death, we finally share the full details of his murder. In doing so, we honor his memory on Veterans Day 2015. People must know the role that governmental homophobia played in his murder and the subsequent cover-up.”