8 Eva Shaderowfsky: Online Work: Eight Bullets

Eight Bullets

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Graphic from Eight Bullets book cover

April 16, 1996

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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