Six people have been arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old boy from Dora, Alabama, just Northwest of the city of Birmingham. Nicholas Hawkins was openly bisexual, musically inclined, and an aspiring cosmetologist. By accounts of friends and family, he had a bubbly personality, had no enemies, was beyond his years in wisdom, and was much loved for not being afraid to be himself. He was also the victim of bullying in school and dropped out but was nearing completion of his GED.
Sadly, Nicholas would instead be the victim of foul play. Many accounts of his death do not touch on the fact that he was a member of the LGBT community, though he did not hide it and was proud of it. Alabama doesn’t include the LGBT community as a class protected from hate crimes, leaving many people open and vulnerable to attack. It hasn’t been determined officially if Nicholas’s orientation was the direct cause of his murder as was the case with the famous Matthew Shepard, there are people who would like to downplay it as a result of involvement with the wrong people or with drugs. There is no proof of these speculations, but people do seem to want to ignore the very real problem of LGBT violence. As an out LGBT American in the state of Alabama, it’s clear that the climate of homophobia is not one that can be considered safe. Though even in the deep south, and especially around larger cities like Birmingham, many would say things are slowly improving.
Nicholas was found wrapped in a blanket and dumped like garbage in a wooded area that was known as a ‘dump site.’ He had called his mother on his cell phone three days prior, after returning from a beauty pageant, to tell her that someone was trying to kill him and revealing the name of Joshua Adam Reese, 21-years-old, which led to his arrest. Strangely, Nicholas’ car may have been returned to his home by Joshua after the murder.
The fact that so many people were involved in the killing of this young man is truly disturbing. Three young men have been charged with the murder: Joshua Adam Reese, Danny Lee Jarvis, 22, and Cory Daniel Conner, 28. Three more still have been charged with hindering the prosecution: Tessa Jean Wise, 23, Colton Stephen Echols, 20, and Lawanda Marie Reese, 39. Lawanda is Joshua’s mother and reportedly lied to investigators on her son’s behalf. That so many would find it acceptable to kill a young man like this points to a climate where a person can be thought of as less than human is what’s truly appalling.
Comments on Facebook show that all is not well in Alabama for LGBT people but what is even more disturbing is that there is a real and noticeable effect on the LGBT community since republicans have again returned to whipping up furor over marriage equality.
Social media comment from a friend of Nicholas
Below are the six people implicated in the murder investigation. So many lives changed forever because of a senseless act of violence, and one removed forever…
See the candlelight vigil for Nicholas, where his brother, Jacob, and friends expressed their fond memories for Nicholas. A public support group for Nicholas can be found here on Facebook.
Nicholas’s favorite song, which he performed according to his brother, Jacob: