The arrest of a gay man for allegedly murdering his partner one day before Valentine’s Day in the partner’s apartment in Temple Hills, Md., has prompted friends and family members to struggle over the specter of domestic violence, people who knew the victim have said.
Prince George’s County police have charged Eldridge Slaughter, 42, a Northeast D.C. resident, with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Christopher Alan Trueheart, 44.
“Christopher was such a gentle soul who loved everyone. His friends are truly stunned and saddened,” said Dwayne Smith, one of Trueheart’s friends.
Friends said Trueheart’s romantic relationship with Slaughter was widely known. Trueheart’s Facebook page – still active as of last week – included a photo of the two men leaning their heads together in an intimate pose.
In his Facebook profile, Trueheart wrote, “I currently have a partner who I love and care for very much.” He stated in his profile that the anniversary of the relationship was Sept. 28, 2008.
A spokesperson for P.G. County police declined to discuss the relationship between the two men and said he could not confirm whether the murder was an incident of domestic violence.
The spokesperson, Cpl. Henry Tippett, said the murder was related to some kind of “personal dispute.”
The Washington Post reported on Feb. 15 that police and law enforcement sources identified Slaughter and Trueheart as being in a “romantic relationship.”
Police said a member of Trueheart’s family found him unconscious in his apartment on the 4400 block of 23rd Parkway, Temple Hills, on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 13.
A police report says an autopsy determined the cause of death was “multiple sharp force injuries.” The police report says investigators quickly identified Slaughter as a suspect in the case and brought him in for questioning. According to the report, Slaughter was in possession of property belonging to Trueheart.
“The defendant waived his constitutional rights and provided a full confession, including details of the murder that would have been only known by the person committing the murder,” the police report says.
Slaughter is being held without bond pending trial.
Others who knew Trueheart said friends and family members, stricken with grief over Trueheart’s death, were reluctant to immediately talk about whether they were aware of signs of abuse in Slaughter’s behavior toward Trueheart.
Amy Loudermilk, co-chair of Rainbow Response, a D.C. group that monitors domestic violence in the LGBT community, said domestic violence is a “major public health” issue and should not be treated as a private matter.
“Silence only contributes to the stigma and taboo around this issue, especially in the LGBT community,” she said. “While friends should certainly be respectful to surviving relatives, and should take their own time to heal before speaking out if they need to do so, every voice possible is needed to fight the epidemic of domestic violence.”
Said Loudermilk, “Additionally, many friends find strength and healing in speaking out and doing something to help prevent another tragedy.”
Rainbow Response provides information about how domestic violence impacts the LGBT community and how the community should address the issue on its website, rainbowresponse.org.
Loudermilk said Rainbow Response supports the routine disclosure by police about whether a crime is linked to domestic violence.
“Again, silence only contributes to the perpetuation of the problem,” she said. “It’s important for another person going through the same situation to be able to read about it and realize that they are not the only one, and perhaps reach out for help.”
She said reporting cases of domestic violence also helps gather statistics on the frequency of the problem that’s needed to better enable advocacy and anti-domestic violence groups to provide services to victims.
She said anyone who feels threatened over possible domestic violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).