January 4, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Christmas murder of gay couple rocks Ft. Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Two gay men who had been a couple for 29 years were found murdered in their house in the City of Wilton Manors just outside Fort Lauderdale at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, with local authorities saying the men apparently invited their killer to their home.

Local activists said the double slaying appeared to be yet another in a series of gay “pickup” murders that have occurred in the Fort Lauderdale area for more than a decade. In some of the past cases, police have said the killings involved troubled youths who targeted older gay men for robberies.

Wilton Manors police announced on Dec. 29 that officers with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement apprehended a suspect in the latest case in Polk County, Fla., after discovering him in possession of a vehicle belonging to the victims. The vehicle, a 2003 Saturn Vue, had been reported stolen at the time of the murder.

Police identified the suspect as Peter Serge Avsenew, 26, a resident of nearby Hollywood, Fla., with a long record of prior arrests on charges including auto theft, check fraud, robbery, grand theft and marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession. Police said Avsenew has used at least half a dozen aliases in recent years.

Alesia Furdom, a spokesperson for the Wilton Manors police, said Avsenew was being held on a parole violation charge related to one of his prior convictions. She said police were continuing their investigation to determine whether he or someone else would be charged in the double slaying.

Authorities waited two days before releasing the identity of the victims, and as of early this week police had yet to disclose whether they were shot, stabbed or killed in some other way.

Wilton Manors police identified them as Stephen Adams, 52, and Kevin Powell, 47.

A friend said the two met at a Pride parade in Cleveland when Powell was 18. The couple lived for many years in Hollywood, Fla., before moving to a rented house in Wilton Manors in 2010.

Shannon Kicklighter, one of the couple’s friends, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Adams was a registered nurse and Powell worked as an interior decorator.

Their Wilton Manors home on Northwest 8th Avenue is in the heart of an upscale city with a population of 13,000, with 40 percent of the residents believed to be gay or lesbian.

Furdom said investigators have determined that the incident was not a random killing and that “the victims did know the suspect.”

According to Furdom, investigators were still looking into the circumstances of how the victims met Avsenew.

Kicklighter said the murders took place shortly after Powell underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant to treat his life-long diabetes. The surgery was declared a success and the couple was looking forward to Powell’s full recovery, Kicklighter told the Sun Sentinel.

In September, the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the Fort Lauderdale area, asked the South Florida Gay News to publish a photo of Alexandria, Va., businessman Samuel DelBrocco, who was found murdered in his vacation home in Pompano Beach, Fla.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office told the Blade, which also published DelBrocco’s photo, that investigators were uncertain whether he was gay or whether his murder was related to his sexual orientation. The spokesperson said investigators were seeking help from “all communities” in their effort to solve that case.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

6 Comments
  • You might check your facts before stating that this is another in a series of gay pick up murders. That does not seem to be the case in fact. However until the actual truth is determined by the detectives, why suggest that this is somehow a pick up situation ? I knew the victims for many years. They were both above and beyond devotion to each other, the most caring and generous people….always willing and able to reach out to help anyone. More to this story may never be known, please do not suggest in any way that the facts are sordid, or titillating. The facts are very sad for those of us who were recipients of the love and generosity Kevin and Steve were capable of. The article states local activists said the slayings appear to be……… Trust me, nothing is ever as it appears to be. This tragedy is a painful situation for the hundreds of people who are now grieving for Kevin and Steve, and I am filled with sadness for Peter as well. What his life experience was, I can not imagine. The anger and hatred required to do this terrible crime is beyond belief.

    • Why are some people here assuming that the murderer was a trick? From other news accounts I have seen, there were only reports he was someone they were helping, someone who had given them a hard-luck story. I have not seen any evidence of sex being involved. And people who knew the couple well indicated they were monogamous and very dedicated to one another.

  • I am truly sorry for the loss of your friends.

    The guys picked up a trick and now look. I must ask however, what would you call it then?

    This sounds like is “appears” to be just what the article stated, A Pick up murder. They are happening all over the country including here in DC.

    Furdom said investigators have determined that the incident was not a random killing and that “the victims did know the suspect.”

    You grief is clear but unfortunately this is a real problem for older gay men.

    We all have to be very careful when shopping for something so young.

  • Police won’t offer up any info.

  • No sympathy for ‘Peter’ he chose to murder. I used to live in that area and saw too many greedy ones that would use excuse that you have a nice place to steal. we left in2002.

  • Well, it is not the reportage that makes it sordid and titillating, it is the facts of the event, which are known. Older homosexuals pick up young homosexuals. They are 100 times more likely to be killed than normal people, and most usually by a “lover”. When you have two old homosexuals picking up a young one, for casual , that IS sordid and titillating, and cannot be made more or less so. I am sure they were nice people and reached out in normal ways, but this time (like many other pickup times), they reached out in a way that killed them. Maybe they offered Peter their car, otherwise he is just plain stupid if he was driving around in it.

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