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Roommate charged in murder of D.C. man

Sources say victim was gay; judge released suspect from jail three weeks before killing

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1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade
1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade

1630 Fuller St., N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A 21-year-old D.C. man charged with stabbing his 68-year-old roommate to death on Feb. 2 was released from jail three weeks before the murder when a D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed an unrelated assault and robbery charge pending against him.

D.C. police on Feb. 3 charged David Jamal Wilson with first-degree felony murder while armed for the alleged fatal stabbing of Howard Venable, Jr., inside Venable’s apartment at 1630 Fuller St., N.W.

Court records show the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, lowered the charge to second-degree murder while armed when prosecutors filed charging papers in D.C. Superior Court.

Two sources familiar with the case told the Washington Blade that Venable had been having an affair with Wilson and was providing financial support for him during the time Wilson was living with him.

Court charging documents list Wilson’s address as 1400 Fairmont St., N.W., where he had been living in the past with his mother, sources said. WhitePages.com, an online phone and address directory, lists a David Wilson and Sertira Wilson as residing in the same apartment at 1400 Fairmont St., N.W., sometime in the recent past.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump confirmed that Wilson had been living with Venable at the time of the murder and that homicide detectives were investigating the nature of the relationship between the two men.

Court records show that Wilson and two other men were charged with armed robbery on Aug. 22, 2012 for allegedly stealing a bicycle from another man at knifepoint in Meridian Hill Park. Court records show that Wilson was initially held in jail following his arrest and later released through a court supervised release program while awaiting trial.

According to court records, prosecutors lowered the charge against Wilson from robbery while armed, which is classified as a felony, to second-degree theft and simple assault, which are misdemeanor offenses.

The court records show Wilson was returned to jail after prosecutors told the judge he violated the terms of his release.

But the case unraveled a short time later, court records show, when Superior Court Judge Marisa J. Demeo dismissed the case and ordered Wilson released from jail on Jan. 10, 2013, on grounds of “want of prosecution.”

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told the Blade on Tuesday that Demeo dismissed the case on the day the trial was scheduled to begin when the victim, who was to be the lead witness, failed to show up in court for the trial.

“The case was dismissed without prejudice, which would allow us to bring the case up again,” Miller said. He said prosecutors have been unable to locate the victim.

Miller declined to comment on Wilson’s latest arrest for the murder of Venable, saying the U.S. Attorney’s office never comments on pending criminal cases.

Details of the murder allegations against Wilson were filed in court on Feb. 4 as part of an arrest affidavit. The document says police found Venable lying face down in a pool of blood on the floor of his apartment under the bedroom doorway at 6:48 p.m.

Personnel from the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Service Department determined there were no signs of life when they arrived on the scene, the affidavit says. An autopsy later found that Venable suffered “multiple slashing wounds to the neck, minor cuts to both hands consistent with defensive wounds, and two stab wounds to the upper torso.”

One of the stab wounds to the torso struck his aorta, leading the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office to conclude the cause of death was “sharp force wounds to the neck and torso.”

The affidavit says two witnesses who knew Venable told a homicide detective a male roommate was living with Venable. One of the witnesses identified the roommate as Wilson, the affidavit says.

It says the apartment was locked and there were no signs of a forced entry or a struggle when someone from the building initially entered the apartment and found Venable lying on the floor unconscious.

A short time later, detectives discovered that money was withdrawn from Venable’s checking account shortly after the murder through an ATM in a convenience store at a BP gas station in District Heights, Md., the affidavit says. It says detectives viewed a surveillance video from the gas station and store and saw Wilson enter and place at least two different cards into the ATM in several separate transactions. The video shows him placing cash obtained from the ATM into his pockets, the affidavit says.

Without saying how police learned where to find Wilson, the affidavit says detectives on Feb. 3 arrived at a residence at 1841 Addison Road in District Heights, Md., where Wilson was staying. It says Wilson agreed to go with detectives to the D.C. police homicide office in Southwest D.C., where he was questioned about Venable’s murder.

“During the course of the interview, the defendant provided numerous inconsistent accounts of his involvement in the decedent’s murder,” the affidavit says. It says Wilson initially said he had not been in Venable’s apartment since Jan. 10 but later said he entered the apartment on Jan. 31 before leaving for work and returned later and found Venable’s body lying in the doorway to the victim’s bedroom.

He denied taking Venable’s bank cards and later claimed someone else he knows told him that person planned to rob Venable. The other person, whom Wilson identified as “Stacks,” invited him to meet him in Maryland and gave him Venable’s bankcards and persuaded him to use them to withdraw money from the ATM at the gas station convenience store, the affidavit says.

“The defendant, who was 47 years younger than the decedent, finally said he was involved in an argument with the decedent inside the apartment and that the decedent went to the kitchen and retrieved a knife,” says the affidavit. “The defendant said he and the decedent wrestled for control of the knife and the decedent fell to the floor stabbing himself,” it says.

“The defendant was then placed under arrest,” it says.

Wilson, who is being held without bond, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 20.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Charlie F

    February 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

    There’s a 2009 interview with Mr. Venable in which he is quoted as saying, “God gave us common sense, but all people want is money, money, money.” Another quote: “The good Lord is always with me.”

    The interview is at
    [URL REMOVED]

  2. peter rosenstein

    February 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Lou this is sad but the column is great and comprehensive thanks

  3. Gregory Maley

    February 9, 2013 at 12:56 am

    One does often manage to stab oneself multiple times.

  4. Cmoney

    February 17, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Really sad. I don’t want to pass judgment, but could I just remind people to leave that rough trade alone? Sometimes people have a genuine interest in helping young men out, but most of the time these relationships are just to get sex. It is just not worth it. Here’s clue: if the young man’s own family wants nothing to do with him, they might be on to something. They know him best!!

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirement that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than a three day requirement to accommodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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