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Youth
 
Gruesome NYC Murder Underscores Youth Vulnerability
 
ONLINE:  FRIDAY MARCH 24, 6:17 PM EST (GMT-5).
NEWS of the gruesome murder and dismemberment of a teen in New York City, allegedly at the hands of his step-father, have youth and GLBT organizations in that city re-emphasizing the high-risk situation inherent to gay youth.

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"The worst-kept secret in the community is that often much of the violence gay people, especially gay youth, experience is at home," Richard Haymes, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, told the Associated Press.  He said the case demonstrates that bias against gays does not always come from strangers.

Officials have confirmed that the skull and other dismembered body parts found in plastic containers in a Burrough of Queens park by a passer-by on Tuesday are those of 19-year old Steen Keith Fenrich.  The young black man's skull had been bleached, with anti-gay epithets and his social security number etched on it.  He disappeared last September.

The teen's white step-father, John Fenrich Jr., 36, was informed by police Tuesday night simply that they had discovered a body likely to be his step-son's.

On Wednesday the man incriminated himself by calling a local cable news station and telling them his son's dismembered body had been found.  The police had not revealed the state of the body.

A disproportionate number of youth have chosen to risk their lives on the street because [of] violence from the people who are there to protect them.
-Richard Haymes,
NYC G & L Anti-Violence Project

 
 
The following day the man committed suicide with a firearm after an 8-hour stand-off with police on the roof of his house.

The step-father had been in trouble with the law in connection with an alleged insurance scam.  His father and two of his brothers are police officers.

Little else is known at this time about either the father or the youth's plight prior to his death.

But the racial and homophobic aspects of the crime, and likely young Steen Fenrich's home life, are far from unclear.

Charmaine Francis of Project Reach, an organization that offers community support to kids in New York City, told AP that this event will deter gay youth from coming out to their parents because youth will think "they are going to kill me."

Mr. Haymes of the Anti-Violence Project referenced statistics describing 40% of American street youth as gay, lesbian or transgender in comparison to the 10% of the US population as a whole.  "So that indicates a disproportionate number of youth who have chosen to risk their lives on the street because the precipitator that made them leave their homes was violence from the people who are there to protect them - their parents, their guardians, their siblings,'' he said.

Kevin McGruder, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, said Fenrich's death points out a need for the community to provide support not only to gay youths, but to their families.  "This murder should not have happened in the year 2000," he said.