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.