EvaS: Eight Bullets is the name of the book you co-authored. What happened
that it's called that? Could you give us a brief synopsis?
HM Ashley: On May 12, 1988 Claudia Brenner and her partner Rebecca Wight
were hiking on the Appalachian Trail. They hiked, met up very briefly with
a man, and then set up camp. It was afternoon. They were in the woods, when
the shots came. The title comes from him firing 8 times. Claudia was hit
5 times in the head and neck. Rebecca was hit twice. The last bullet missed.
EvaS: Quite a story.
HM Ashley: The rest of the book, though is much more interesting in some
ways. It's about Claudia's recovery, the response of the medical and legal
systems, the police, her community and family. There is also the drama of
her "escape" from the woods (she walked almost 4 miles). And Stephen
Roy Carr's arrest.
EvaS: When I read the book, I was struck by the fact that it would have
been possible for the killer to have shot at a heterosexual couple making
love, too. Yet that was never considered even once. Why?
HM Ashley: Well, we did consider it. It could have happened--lots of violence
in this world---but we know from things that SRC said and what his lawyer
said that part of his motivation at least was homophobia. He talked about
not liking to see women kiss women and men kiss men. His lawyer also tried
to assert that Claudia and Rebecca had "provoked" the shooting
by kissing and making love in front of him. Of course, they had no idea
that he was anywhere around.
EvaS: The book is strangely radicalizing. I started off shocked that a murder
such as this, by a crazy, asocial man would be considered homophobic violence,
and wound up thinking that this is true, that we have seen similar people
who bomb abortion clinics, who do other anti-social acts. These acts, chosen
in a sense with some approval by a large portion of our society, are acceptable,
or have been for ages. Being or doing something that has been considered
not acceptable is asking for violence. Or, to put it another way, and perhaps
more accurately, the culture is constructed in such a way that the outlet
for violence, the scapegoat, is that which is not totally within the mainstream.
I'm trying to combine my thoughts about the homophobic murder with my thoughts
about rape and blaming the victim. What might your thoughts be on what I'm
struggling with here?
HM Ashley: First, let me say that SRC (the murderer) was not crazy. He knew
what he was doing and later said, I did something wrong. However, I agree
that there is a lot of blame the victim mentality out there. Even the press
in Claudia's hometown fell "victim" to it, so to speak. The headline
they ran during one week of the case was, "Women Teased Me, Mountain
Man Testifies." Which, of course, was completely inaccurate. It's also
interesting that in many cases, SRC would be considered the underdog. He's
poor, uneducated, unattractive and asocial, but it was clear that he thought
that as lesbians, Claudia and Rebecca were even lower on the social ladder
than him. Fortunately, the courts and police did not play into that belief.
DXSMac: I'm curious about how the lawyer used the "two women teased
me" line of thinking when I bet this same guy reads HUSTLER, which
often has pictures of two women together. Did the prosecution try to counter
with "Betcha' read Hustler" attack? I'm just curious how he could
use that line of thinking?
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