2006 Harris County, Texas hate crime assault
The 2006 Harris County, Texas hate crime assault refers to the beating, torture, and sexual assault of a Latino student, by two white youths during the early morning of April 22, 2006, in an unincorporated section of Harris County, Texas, United States in Greater Houston. The details of the attack led to the publication of the story in various media outlets in and outside the United States. The victim of the assault, whose identity was not made public until months after the attack, committed suicide a year after the incident.
The incident occurred at a residence located north of the city of Houston, with a Spring, Texas address, at a party held at the Sons family home. Two Klein Collins High School students, David Henry Tuck, then 18, and Keith Robert Turner, then 17, beat, tortured and sodomized David Ritcheson, a 16-year-old fellow Klein Collins student and former running back for the school's football team.
Tuck and Turner, who were both under the influence of recreational drugs, said they were told that Ritcheson, also under the influence of drugs, tried to kiss 12-year-old Danielle Sons. Sons' statement threw Tuck into a rage, and Tuck punched Ritcheson. The first punch was so powerful it broke Ritcheson's cheekbone and knocked him unconscious, stated Dr. Red Duke, the emergency physician who treated him.
Tuck and Turner dragged Ritcheson outside, stripped him naked, burned him with cigarettes, and attempted to engrave a swastika into Ritcheson's chest. Tuck kicked Ritcheson with steel-toed boots and forced the pointed end of a PVC patio umbrella pole up his rectum several inches while yelling racial slurs. After the sodomy ended, the perpetrators poured bleach on the victim's body to conceal the evidence of the crime. The attack lasted five hours. Ritcheson was left lying behind the house for more than 10 hours before he was found and an ambulance was called. Ritcheson suffered from extensive injuries including a perforated bladder. The night after the assault, Ritcheson's lungs failed, and he was placed on a ventilator. According to Harris County prosecutor Mike Trent, the attackers may have poured bleach inside the pipe as high levels of toxins were found in Ritcheson's organs.
Conviction and legal punishment
After being contacted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and agreeing to make his name public, Ritcheson went to Washington, D.C., and on April 17, 2007, testified to the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee about passing more stringent hate crime laws.
In December 2006, Tuck and Turner were both convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Tuck, who was described by prosecutors as a white supremacist, was sentenced to life in prison, and Turner was sentenced to 90 years. Turner unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the 14th Court of Appeals for the State of Texas. On March 20, 2008, the Court of Appeals issued its opinion affirming Turner's conviction. Both Tuck and Turner must serve at least 30 years before becoming eligible for parole.
As of 2015[update] Tuck is incarcerated at the Ramsey Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and has the TDCJ ID 01403389. His parole eligibility date is April 22, 2036. As of 2015 Turner is incarcerated at the Wallace Pack Unit and has the TDCJ ID 01404515. Turner's parole eligibility date is April 24, 2036, and his tentative release date is April 24, 2096.
After a lengthy recovery, which included a three-month stint in the hospital and more than 12 surgeries, Ritcheson refused professional counseling and never spoke about his experiences with his friends. During an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Ritcheson stated:
I shouldn't care what people think. But it's like everyone knows I'm 'the kid'. I don't want to be a standout because of what happened.
On the morning of July 1, 2007, Ritcheson committed suicide by jumping from the deck of the Carnival Ecstasy, a cruise ship bound for the Mexican resort island of Cozumel. He was 18 years old. The Ritcheson family's attorney, Carlos Leon, confirmed his death.
- Monica Rhor: Teenagers, Racism And a Brutal Attack, Washington Post, January 7, 2007
- Marc Pitzke: Das lange Sterben des David Ritcheson, Der Spiegel, July 3, 2007
- Murphy, Bill, Paige Hewitt, Jennifer Leahy, and Cynthia Leonor Garza. "Teen victim of Spring pipe attack dies after apparent jump from ship / LULAC official says family told the 18-year-old went overboard on Carnival cruise." Houston Chronicle. Monday July 2, 2007. A1. Retrieved on January 19, 2010.
- "Boy, 16, Near Death After Sexual Assault, Beating Archived August 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine." Click2Houston, April 28, 2006. Retrieved on July 22, 2010. "David Tuck, 18, and Keith Turner, 17, were outside a house party in the 21000 block of Glen Branch in Spring when they attacked the 16-year-old on Saturday at about 11:30 pm, according to investigators." (the addresses are stated to establish the precise location of the crime in unincorporated Harris County)
- "2010 CENSUS – CENSUS BLOCK MAP (INDEX): Spring CDP, TX" (Archive). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on November 14, 2015. The map is provided to show that the "2130 block of Glenbranch" is outside the CDP.
- Glenn, Mike, Peggy O'Hare, Zeke Minaya, and Kimberley Stauffer. "Details of brutal beating revealed." Houston Chronicle. Friday April 28, 2006. A1. Retrieved on January 19, 2010.
- Hewitt, Paige and Bill Murphy. "Moving on, and trying to shed 'victim' label." Houston Chronicle. April 17, 2007. Retrieved on January 19, 2010.
- Stinebaker, Joe. "Teen's suicide puzzles friends". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on February 14, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
- AP: Night of torture leads to lives in prison and pain, The Dallas Morning News, December 31, 2006
- Stinebaker, Joe (July 3, 2007). "Anti-hate law shifts to debate on gays". USA Today. Retrieved January 21, 2008.
- AP: No hate crime charges after brutal attack, NBC News, April 28, 2006
- Hate Crime Victim Testifies Before House Judiciary Committee Archived September 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. ADL.org.
- AP: Teen gets life for attack on Hispanic boy, MSNBC, November 17, 2006
- AP: 2nd teen gets 90 years in brutal party attack, MSNBC, December 11, 2006
- "Tuck, David Henry" (Archive) Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 28, 2015.
- "Turner, Keith Robert" (Archive). Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 28, 2015.
- Paige Hewitt & others: Teen's leap from ship recounted by passengers, Houston Chronicle, July 3, 2007
- Hewitt, Page; Murphy, Bill (April 17, 2007). "Teen wants stricter hate crime laws after attack". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
Ritcheson has declined psychological counseling, relying on his parents and friends. He copes with the past, he said, "by not thinking about it." He knows the attack changed him fundamentally but says he has overcome the worst of it. "I'm reminded every day of how lucky I am," he said. Ritcheson hopes to graduate from Klein Collins and begin attending Blinn College or Austin Community School in about a year. He hopes to transfer to Texas A&M and study psychology or business.
- Witnesses say that just after sunrise David climbed a mast near the bow of the ship. Crew members and friends thought they had persuaded him but instead he jumped. The ship went back and pulled him from the water then at 9:10 am he was pronounced dead.""Cruise tragedy: Teen jumps ship."". Archived from the original on February 14, 2008. Retrieved 2013-05-28. KHOU.com. Sunday July 1, 2007. Retrieved on January 19, 2010.
- Testimony given by David Ritcheson at the Wayback Machine (archived July 4, 2007) (Archive)
- Heart of Darkness by Mike Trent (Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, Texas), Texas District and County Attorneys Association, 2007.
- David Ritcheson at the Wayback Machine (archived July 2, 2011) – Human Rights Campaign (Archive)