Have We Really Come to This?
About a year and a half ago I vaguely remember hearing about the murder of a young woman, her roommates
confessed to the murder. The reason it caught my attention was because everytime I heard the story the word lesbian
was mentioned. The victim, Stacy Hanna, was allegedly a lesbian (or at least bi) and the murderers claimed to be
lesbians. The media was having a field day over the story. A love triangle ending in murder was good copy, but one
involving lesbians!!! It was like an episode of Jerry Springer come to life. While the media was focused on the sexual
orientation of the perpetrators of this crime, the actually people involved where reduced to cliches, so much so that you
could recognizes them as "The Tall One: (Tracy Bitner), the Short one: (Kelly "Turtle" Tibbs), The Black one:
(Domica Winkler) and the Disabled one: (Stephanie Cull)".
By reducing them to stereotypes it was easy to dismiss the whole business. "They're lesbians, they're nothing like us"
seemed to the the general publics opinion. But I believe it's not an act of LESBIAN violence, but rather an act of youth
violence and the victim and murderers just happened to be lesbians. As I read more and move about the story I couldn't
help but be appalled. I think it should have been more widely covered then it was, but as I stated before, the majority
couldn't feel a connection to the people involved because they only concentrated on the sexual orientation of the victim
and her attackers.
I was shopping at the grocery store when I saw a book in the checkout line "A Fatal Lie" The Truth Behind the Lesbian
Love Triangle Killers. Hows that for a title that says it all? I bought it, read it and then did some basic research of my
own. The book was wrote to serve a purpose and that purpose was to fill the need our society has to know the "inside"
story behind the headlines. We need to know the "real" story. But really how involved and real is a book wrote quick
enought to make the stands while the story is still relatively fresh in our minds? Don't get me wrong, I applaud the fact
that a book was even written for this, but I have to question the actual material put forth in it. Below I've copied news
stories that came out about the murder of Stacy Hanna. It was a terrible, horrible crime and it seemed to me as if the
author of the book kind of felt bad for the women held accountable for Stacy's death. I don't feel bad, they knew what
they were doing. There's always people around to say "Well if each girl had been alone she won't have killed Stacy
Hanna by herself. It was a group action." So? Is peer pressure strong enough to make someone commit murder?
Others say it because these women had had a rough life so far. So? Everyones got their problems, many people grew
up in rough homes, had horrible things happen to them, they don't become killers. The thing that gets me is how little
remorse any of the women have shown. What did Stacy do that was so bad they felt they had to kill her? She tried to
breakup a relationship between the girl she had a crush on (Tibbs) and another girl (Bitner). Okay, let me just go out on
a limb here and say that I personally have known people who've tried to come between someone I was dating and
myself, but I didn't kill them, I'm sure I called them a few unpleasant names, but I've never gotten into a physical
confrontation over it and I'm sure many of you have been in at least one of these situations either as the instigator, the
crush or the significant other, it's not a reason to kill someone. Then again I believe there's never a reason to end
someone else's life.
News Report on the Murder
They found Stacy Hanna lying on a lonely, muddy logging road in her
underwear, curled up in the fetal position as though sleeping, her hands
folded under her head like a pillow.
But when police turned her body over, they began to uncover one of the
more violent, and unusual, murder cases in Virginia history. The
18-year-old woman had been slashed repeatedly with a razor knife, kicked,
and beaten with a belt and fists. Her skull was fractured by a blow from
a cinder block.
Even more unusual than the array of murder weapons were the suspects
themselves: a group of 4 teenagers, all female and gay. 2 of them
could face the death penalty if convicted, because police believe they
were most responsible for the killing. If either were sentenced to die,
she would be the 1st woman to be executed in Virginia since 1912.
Hanna, who died July 27, had moved from her home town of Lynchburg to
Richmond earlier that month. Apparently through a mutual friend, she met
2 of the young women now charged with her slaying and moved into their
dilapidated row house, not far from the trendy Carytown business district.
Exactly what happened over those 2 weeks remains unclear, but police say
they believe Hanna's roommates and 2 other friends grew angry with Hanna
for somehow interfering in 1 or more of their relationships and decided
to teach her a lesson.
3 of her new friends -- Damica Winckler, 18, Tracy Bitner, 19, and Kelly
Ann Tibbs, 18 -- have been indicted on capital murder charges. Stephanie
Cull, 18, has been charged with 1st-degree murder. All 4 teenagers
have confessed to taking part in the killing, according to police
and court records.
"There are times when people need to die, and this is 1 of those times,"
Winckler told Detective Rick Mormando, who paraphrased her statement at a
recent preliminary hearing in General District Court here.
A preliminary autopsy indicates that Hanna was alive when her attackers
left her on the logging road about 15 miles south of Richmond,
authorities said. Her death appears to have been caused by a combination
of bleeding and drowning on the muddy ground.
The prosecutor, Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Warren B. VonSchuch,
said he will seek the death penalty for Winckler and Bitner because of
their roles in the attack, which stretched over several hours. The only
woman ever put to death in Virginia's electric chair was 17-year-old
Virginia Christian, in 1912.
"You just don't hear about such heinous, violent, predatory-type behavior
on the part of young females," said David Botkins, spokesman for the
Virginia Department of Corrections.
That applies throughout the country. Since the 1970s, when the death
penalty was reinstated, about 390 people have been executed nationwide,
and only 1 was female, said Victor L. Streib, dean of the law college at
Ohio Northern University.
"We are very reluctant to sentence females to death and certainly to
execute them," Streib said. "A factor that tends to lean toward giving
(the two suspects) the death penalty is that the crime is horribly
The case has sparked concern among members of Richmond's gay community,
some of whom knew the teenagers from a support group. Others fear
further discrimination against homosexuals in the wake of the slaying.
"It's been very upsetting to the gay community," said Wendy Northup,
president of the Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth. The
slaying "tends to be characterized as a crime by gay youth. It's not an
issue of gender violence; it's really an issue of youth violence."
Officials and lawyers involved in the case said they have begun to piece
together what happened on the night of Hanna's death through interviews
and statements from the 4 teenagers, 1 of whom led authorities to the
Hanna moved to Richmond on July 4 and began rooming with Tibbs and
Bitner. Through police, Hanna's family declined to discuss the case.
"What I think happened, is (Hanna) came out of the closet, and they took
her under their wing," Mormando said.
Tibbs, whose nickname, "Turtle," is tattooed on her left arm and right
hand, had been having a relationship with Bitner, and Hanna apparently
moved into the row house about the time the pair broke up, according to
Tibbs's attorney, Wayne R. Morgan Jr.
"Hanna was hitting on Tibbs, and Tibbs still had feelings for Bitner,"
Morgan said. "Hanna was kind of getting in the way...There were also
allegations that (someone) was stealing some stuff, and they all assumed
it was Hanna."
The teenagers decided to punish Hanna, who had just started a waitressing
job on the riverboat Annabel Lee, and invited her to go out drinking
with them the evening of July 26, police said.
Later that night, the teenagers piled into Cull's gray 1993 Ford Tempo,
which had a tag for the disabled. Cull suffers from a severe form of
rheumatoid arthritis and spent much of her time in high school in a
wheelchair, her attorney, Joseph D. Morrissey, said. She dropped out in
the 12th grade after being teased about her sexual orientation, he said,
and had to quit her job at a Pizza Hut because she couldn't stand
up. Morrissey maintains that Cull is the "least culpable of the 4" and
was caught up in the escalating violence. "The girls were upset at the
victim because she was interfering in 1 or more relationships. I don't
think they set out to kill her. It got out of hand," Morrissey said.
According to police testimony, the teenagers drove to a popular outdoor
drinking spot near the Chesterfield airport, where the beating and
Hanna was then thrown into the trunk of the car and driven around for as
long as 45 minutes, Mormando said. When Hanna would scream out, they
stopped the car, and Hanna was spit on and slashed some more in the trunk,
he said. They eventually drove to the remote logging road.
1 of the young women suggested that they "finish what they started," said
John B. Boatwright III, Bitner's attorney. "No 1 spoke up loudly enough
to say no. I am firmly convinced that they can't believe what they
collectively did and that they are remorseful."
Morgan said that Tibbs, who worked as a landscaper's assistant and has a
5-year-old child, was badly cut trying to pull one of the knives away
from one of the teenagers during the attack.
Police believe that the clothes and watch Hanna was wearing which
belonged to Tibbs, were removed so they could not be used as evidence
against them. A robbery during the commission of a murder can elevate
the crime to capital murder.
A 5th teenager, Claire Watson, 18, has been charged as an accessory after
the fact, a misdemeanor. According to police, Watson was told about the
incident by one of the suspects and did not alert police.
All the attorneys said they believe that their clients never intended to
kill anybody and were not known to be violent people. Bitner was a
talented basketball player in high school; Winckler excelled in bowling.
To her family, Winckler was the 1 who always ran from fights, said her
attorney, Gregory Carr. "She had a dry sense of humor and was
affectionate," he said.
Streib, the law school dean, said that the brutality of the crime and the
women's sexual orientation could work against them with a jury. Still,
he said, given the history of the death penalty, it would be "astonishing"
if either teenager charged with capital murder lands on death row.
Christian, the only female inmate executed in Virginia this century, was
a black teenager from a poor family, working for a prominent white woman
in Hampton as a laundress. When she was accused of stealing a shirt by
her employer, an argument ensued and a fight broke out. Christian
confessed to fighting and robbing the woman but didn't realize she had
kille her. She was executed a day after her 17th birthday.
"The bottom line," Streib said, "is that Virginia's modern death penalty
system applies, in practice, only to men."
Harsh sentence only for Black in lesbian murder case
Of the four young women—all apparently lesbians—charged in the gruesome, jealousy-motivated slaying of
lesbian Stacey Hanna, only Domica Winkler has been recommended by a Virginia jury to receive the death
penalty. (Out magazine reported on the case in detail.)
The sole African-American among the defendants, Hanna was convicted of capital murder, abduction and robbery
Jan. 15. White defendant Tracy Bitner’s jury "received different instructions on how to interpret the Virginia death
penalty statue," according to Stephanie Burns, co-coordinator for Micah Ministries in the Metropolitan Community
Church of Northern Virginia. Although Winkler’s "guilt is not in question," Burns urged participation in a prayer
vigil April 29 to seek "equal justice" for Winkler. Info (703) 691-0930 or go to www.mccnova.com.
Monday, Feb. 9, 1998--
And you wonder why black folks don't trust the criminal justice system.
We recently witnessed an outpouring of support for Karla Faye Tucker, a
white female pickax murderer turned Christian who, despite the best
efforts of the Rev. Pat Robertson, was executed Tuesday.
We also read in The Times-Dispatch how Danville has sent more people to
death row per capita than any other Virginia city. All of these condemned
men happen to be African-American, even though whites commit a quarter of
And now, we have the contrast between the trials of Tracy Lynn Bitner
and Domica Winckler.
Those women and 2 others were charged with murder in the brutal slaying
of Stacey Hanna, who was left bloody and battered July 27 in a mud puddle
on a logging road in Chesterfield County.
A Chesterfield jury recommended last month that Winckler be executed for
the crime. But Friday, after hearing much of the same evidence that was
heard during the Winckler trial, a jury of 10 whites and two blacks
looked in Bitner's eyes, blinked and decided to spare her life.
Bitner's 1st-degree murder conviction raised the distinct possibility
that Winckler, the lone black defendant in the case, would be the only
Despite all our expressed yearnings for a colorblind society, Justice
still seems to peep over and under her blindfold.
Don't get me wrong. This is not a defense of Winckler's actions. When
you've done what she has done, you have to anticipate the harshest of
punishments even if you are 18 and it is your 1st offense.
But, from what I've read about the case, Bitner, 20, appeared to be at
least equally culpable. 1 witness recalled Bitner saying, "I cut her
throat and it felt good." And 2 women testified that Bitner was the
1st one to say Hanna should be killed.
The fates of Winckler and Bitner hinged on the different legal
instructions the juries received.
Winckler was undone by her swiping of Hanna's watch, even though the
theft appeared to be incidental to the murder.
But Bitner's jury was told that to convict her of capital murder, it had
to conclude that robbery was "one of the motivating factors for the
murder." My suspicion is that the Winckler jury, given the same
instruction, would have been hard pressed to justify a capital-murder
Winckler's lawyers had sought the same instruction, but Judge Herbert C.
Gill Jr. refused it.
Prosecutor Warren B. Von Schuch was uneasy about Friday's verdict. "I
don't think we're comfortable with the difference in punishment. We'll
have to take a look at it."
2 different judges, 2 different sets of instruction. Upon such nuances
and minutiae, our legal system is built. But for African-Americans,
inconsistencies and technicalities seldom seem to swing in our favor.
Then again, perhaps technicalities wouldn't have made any difference for
Instructions notwithstanding, the jury of 11 whites and one black still
had the discretion to spare Winckler's life.
Recommending whether someone lives or dies is an emotional decision.
Perhaps during the Bitner trial, white jurors looked at the defendant and
saw, however briefly, a daughter or cousin or niece. Maybe, amid all the
heinous details of the crime, a smidgen of empathy crept in.
Could they have looked at Winckler the same way?
Gill is scheduled to sentence Winckler April 30. The last woman executed
in Virginia was 17-year-old Virginia Christian, electrocuted in 1912,
according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
I should state for the record here that I am opposed to the death penalty.
Part of this stems from my belief that final judgment should be reserved
for God, not for the state. I'm also convinced and numerous studies
support me that capital punishment does not deter violent crime. But my
gravest concern is that the death sentence has been meted out in
disproportionate numbers to African-Americans.
But don't mistake me for a bleeding heart. Some death-row inmates have
committed crimes so outrageous and vile that they're on their own, as far
as I'm concerned.
I thought Karla Faye Tucker, who on Tuesday became the 1st woman executed
in the United States in 13 years, fit that description.
This Texan was a woman who professed to receive sexual pleasure with
every stroke of the pickax she drove into one of her victims.
But here was Robertson, a staunch supporter of capital punishment,
praying for her life. This strange turnaround had people asking the
right kinds of questions.
Would Robertson have felt as strongly about Tucker's case if she had
found, say, Allah instead of Jesus? What about rehabilitated atheists?
And how would Robertson and Tucker's other supporters have responded if
Tucker was black, like Winckler, or a lesbian?
We'll have further opportunity to ponder questions about the propriety
of executing women and what role race and sexual preference plays in such
The capital-murder trial of Kelly Tibbs, a 3rd defendant in the Hanna
slaying, is set for April 20.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Thursday, Feb. 5, 1998----
2 women testified yesterday that Tracy Lynn Bitner was the 1st one to
say that Stacey Hanna should be killed.
1 witness, Dana Vaughn, testified that Bitner, 20, was almost boastful
after she and 2 other women left Hanna stabbed, beaten and bleeding in a
mud puddle July 27 on a logging trail in Chesterfield County.
"I cut her throat and it felt good," Vaughn recalled that Bitner had
Bitner also told Vaughn that she cut Hanna and said, "Give me your
heart, bitch, why won't you die?" Vaughn testified in Chesterfield
Circuit Court yesterday, the 1st day of testimony in Bitner's capital
The tone of Bitner's remarks to Vaughn contrasted with a statement she
gave to Chesterfield Detective Michael Zeheb less than 24 hours later.
Although Bitner acknowledged participating in the attack on Hanna, she
wept when she recalled that Hanna said at one point that she wanted to
call her mother and tell her that she loved her.
The jury watched a videotape of Bitner's interview with Zeheb yesterday.
Bitner sat with her head down and dabbed at her nose and eyes with a
The trial of Bitner on charges of capital murder, robbery and abduction
was to resume this morning. Much of yesterday's testimony mirrored that
in the trial last month of Domica C. Winckler, who was convicted of
capital murder. The jury recommended the death penalty.
Winckler testified yesterday that Bitner was the 1st one to say that
Hanna should be killed.
Hanna, 18, had come to Richmond from Lynchburg on July 4 and moved into
a house near Carytown.
Kelly Tibbs lived at the house with Vaughn and another woman. Bitner,
with whom Tibbs had had a lesbian affair, was a frequent visitor, as were
Winckler, who lived around the corner, and Stephanie Cull, who lived in
Hanna was attracted to Tibbs, but "Stacey kind of liked Kelly more than
Kelly wanted her to," Vaughn testified. "Stacey was kind of obsessed."
Hanna told lies among the group when she perceived that Tibbs and Bitner
might be interested in rekindling their relationship, according to
testimony. Tibbs, Bitner, Winckler and Cull agreed to beat Hanna to
teach her a lesson, Vaughn and Winckler testified.
The women piled into Cull's car and drove to a popular drinking spot off
near the Chesterfield Airport. Vaughn said she was not feeling well and
was not aware of the plan until the attack occurred. She never got out
of the car.
At the field, the 4 women attacked Hanna with box cutters, their feet
and a cinder block. They left her there but returned a few minutes later
and put her in the car trunk.
Bitner told Zeheb that the women said, "We gotta get rid of her or she's
gonna rat us out." They drove around for at least half an hour and
stopped at least once before pulling up on the logging road.
Testimony differed on whether Winckler took a watch from Hanna there or
at a 2nd stop before they arrived at the logging trail.
Winckler testified that the decision to take the watch was hers and that
the other 3 women had nothing to do with it.
At the logging road, Bitner, Tibbs and Winckler half-carried Hanna about
450 feet before attacking her again in a mud puddle. They took her
T-shirt and shorts, which belonged to Tibbs, and slashed her with box
cutters. Cull stayed back in the car with Vaughn.
Bitner also tried to snap Hanna's neck and to hold her face in the mud
and suffocate her, Winckler said.
Chief Medial Examiner Marcella F. Fierro testified at Winckler's trial
that Hanna died from loss of blood and drowning.
Tibbs, 19, is to be tried for capital murder on April 6. Cull, 18, is
charged with 1st-degree murder.
Winckler's sentencing is set for April 30.
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
It's been ten years since an American State carried out a death sentence on a woman. As of July 31, 1997, 3,309
people await their fates on death row. Less than fifty of them are women. Of the just under 400 people executed
since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty, only one was female. Now, in Virginia, the Chief Deputy
Commonwealth's Attorney Warren Von Schuch has announced that the will seek the death penalty for two of four
young women arrested for the brutal murder of 18 year old Stacy Hanna.
Hanna was murdered on July 27, 1997. Police found the young woman clad only in her underwear, lying on a
Virginia logging road curled up in the fetal position. When they turned her over, police saw that she had been
slashed repeatedly with a knife and beaten repeatedly with a belt and fists. Further examination showed that her
skull had been fractured with a cinder block. Police arrested 4 suspects, Tracy Bitner, 19, Damica Winckler, 18,
Kelly Ann Tibbs, 18, and Stephanie Cull, also 18, and charged them with first degree murder.
Hanna had moved from Lynchburg to Richmond several weeks before her death. Through a mutual friend, Hanna
met the two of the four women and moved in with them into a dilapidated row house. All five women were gay.
Police remain uncertain over what exactly occurred during the two weeks Hanna lived in the house, but from the
women's statements, all of whom have admitted to the crime, they believe that the four women felt Hanna was
interfering with a personal relationship between two of the women. Bitner and Tibbs, who lived together in the row
house, apparently broke up around the same time Hanna moved into the house. Although Hanna's family has
refused to publicly discuss the case, police believe Hanna "came out of the closet, and they took her under their
According to police, Tibbs was seeking a resolution with Bitner, but Hanna interfered by "hitting on Tibbs."
Additionally, allegations floated around the household that someone was stealing things, and the four women
assumed it was Hanna.
On the evening of July 26, 1997, the women decided to punish Hanna, and invited her to go out drinking with them.
The five women went in Cull's car to a popular drinking spot near the Chesterfield airport, and it was there that
police believe the beating and slashing began. The women then threw Hanna in the trunk of Cull's car and drove
around for about an hour. When Hanna screamed, they would stop the car and beat her until she was silent.
According to Bitner's attorney, John B. Boatwright III, one of the women suggested that they "finish what they
started." The women dumped Hanna on the logging road, and removed her clothes, which apparently belonged to
Tibbs, to prevent the crime from being traced back to them. Preliminary autopsy results suggest that Hanna was
still alive when the four women drove away, but she was dead when authorities found her. The cause of death
appears to have been a combination of bleeding and drowning on the muddy ground. The events of the evening
were pieced together from statements by the four women, one of whom led police to the body.
The women's attorneys have been quick to issue statements. According to Boatwright, "No one spoke up loud
enough to say no. I am firmly convinced that they can't believe what they collectively did and that they are
Cull's attorney, Joseph D. Morrissey, stated that Cull,of the four, is the least culpable. Cull spent much of her high
school life in a wheelchair due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, and dropped out of high school during
her senior year after repeated teasing about her sexual preference. "The girls were upset at the victim because she
was interfering in one or more relationships. I don't think they set out to kill her. It got out of hand," Morrissey said.
Von Schuch has stated that he will seek the death penalty for Bitner and Winckler, though Tibbs has also been
charged with capital murder. A fifth woman, Claire Watson, was charged with the misdemeanor crime of
accessory after the fact. According to investigators, one of the women told her about Hanna and Watson did not
report the crime to the police. Richmond's gay community has expressed concern over media characterizations of
the crime as violence by "gay youths."
"It's not an issue of gender violence," said Wendy Northrup, president of the Richmond Organization for Sexual
Minority Youth. "It's really an issue of youth violence."
It's rare that the death penalty is sought for women. By the statistics, prosecutors are not comfortable asking and
juries are even less comfortable sentencing a woman to death. The unlikelihood of either Bitner or Winckler
receiving the death penalty is compounded by the growing discomfort in Virginia over the state's laws, most
specifically the "Twenty One Day Law."
The Twenty One Day Law prevents courts from hearing new evidence establishing innocence in death row cases
if the evidence is discovered more than 21 days after the conviction. This includes using new applications such as
DNA testing to confirm the findings of old evidence. Several high profile Virginia cases involve death row inmates
unable to get new trials despite strong evidence of their innocence. One case even involved a medical testing
facility that originally had testified for the prosecution subsequently testifying for the defense during an appeal.
While the majority of Virginians still favor the death penalty, support has gradually begun to decrease, and almost
75% of Virginians polled by Virginia Tech oppose the Twenty One Day Law.
In the last century, Virginia has only executed one woman. Virginia Christian, a seventeen year old black woman,
was put to death in 1912.
A grand jury has indicted 3 women on capital murder charges in the
abduction and slaying of a new roommate who apparently started a
relationship with one of the suspects.
Police said the women, including a 4th suspect charged with 1st-degree
murder, have admitted to roles in the July 27 killing of Stacey Hanna.
1 of the suspects, Domica Winckler, 18, told investigators "there are
times when people need to die, and this is one of those times,"
Chesterfield County Detective Rick Mormando testified Monday at a
General District Court hearing.
The victim was beaten and stabbed and suffered a fractured skull.
Mormando said Miss Winckler admitted throwing a cinder block at the
Police say all 4 suspects -- Miss Winckler; Tracy Bitner, 19; Kelly
Tibbs, 18; and Stephanie Cull, 18 -- were involved in homosexual
Miss Winckler, Miss Bitner and Miss Tibbs were indicted Monday on
capital murder, robbery and abduction charges. A hearing in Miss
Cull's case was postponed to Nov. 6; she is charged with
1st-degree murder and abduction.
Miss Hanna, who moved to Richmond on July 4 from Lynchburg, was driven
to a remote area near the Chesterfield County airport on a ruse of
drinking beer. That is where she was initially attacked, police said.
At first, the suspects "were just going to give her a beating because
(they believed that she) was interfering in their relationships and
had told lies to them," said Detective Dave Zeheb.
But after assaulting her, the women became concerned that she would go
to police. "So they decided at that point that they needed to kill her,"
Miss Hanna was forced into the trunk of the car and driven to a logging
road, where she was attacked again. Police said Miss Bitner admitted
cutting the victim's throat at the end of the attack.
Police found Miss Hanna's body face-down in mud with her hands placed
under her head.
Jury selection was to resume today in the trial of the 2nd of 3 women
charged with capital murder in the death of Stacey Hanna, who was found
beaten, stabbed and face down in mud on a Chesterfield County logging
road in July.
Tracy Lynn Bitner, 20, also is charged with robbery and abduction in
the death of Hanna. A Chesterfield Circuit Court jury recommended
last month that Domica C. Winckler be executed for her role in Hanna's
A 3rd capital murder trial, for defendant Kelly Tibbs, 19, is set for
the week of April 6.
A 4th woman, Stephanie Cull, 18, is charged with 1st-degree murder.
Although most of the 1st 19 potential jurors questioned yesterday knew
something about the case, only 4 were aware that a jury had recommended
the death penalty for Winckler, 18. 3 of those said they would not let
that knowledge interfere with their decisions on Bitner, and they remain
Judge John F. Daffron Jr. said he wants to have 26 potential jurors.
The jury will be reduced to 12, plus alternates.
According to testimony at Winckler's trial, Hanna, 18, had come to
Richmond from Lynchburg on July 4 to help a friend move. She got a job
at a bagel shop and decided to stay at a house near Carytown.
Tibbs lived at the house. Bitner, with whom Tibbs had had a lesbian
affair, was a frequent visitor, as were Stephanie Cull, who lived in
Chester, and Winckler, who lived around the corner.
Most of the girls who lived in or visited the home were lesbians,
according to testimony, although Hanna had had a series of boyfriends in
Lynchburg, and a social worker described Winckler in a social history as
sexually promiscuous with young men.
According to testimony, Hanna developed an obsession with Tibbs,
according to testimony, and told lies among the group when she perceived
that Tibbs and Bitner might be interested in rekindling their relationship.
After an evening of drinking beer, the young women abandoned Hanna in the
field, according to testimony, but decided after a few minutes that they
would have to kill her to keep her from reporting the attack to police.
They put Hanna in the trunk of the car and took her to a logging trail.
Bitner, Tibbs and Winckler half-carried Hanna 450 feet down the trail and
took off her T-shirt and shorts, which belonged to Tibbs.
Testimony indicated they attacked her in a mud puddle, cutting her
throat and slashing her on the back, legs and chest. They also tried to
suffocate her by holding her face in the mud.
Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Marcella F. Fierro concluded that Hanna
died from a combination of drowning and bleeding to death.
(source: Associated Press)
Chesterfield County Circuit Judge Herbert C. Gill Jr. yesterday set aside
a jury recommendation of a death sentence for Domica C. Winckler and
instead sentenced her to life in prison without parole.
Winckler, 19, is 1 of 3 young women who had been charged with capital
murder in the grisly slashing and stabbing death of 18-year-old Stacey L.
Hanna in July. Winckler was the only black defendant and the only 1 that
jurors recommended be put to death.
Gill did not elaborate on his reasons for setting aside the verdict other
than to refer to "the ends of justice" and "good cause shown."
But Cathy Hanna Wilson, the victim's mother, told Gill this about
Winckler: "I feel that if she was to receive death, all of them should."
That was a reference to 3 other women charged in Hanna's murder. Wilson
said she thought the defendants were equally responsible.
"My daughter was not prejudiced at all," Wilson added, and would not have
liked the idea that someone might be executed because of her color.
2 of the other 3 defendants, Tracy Lynn Bitner, 20, and Kelly Ann Tibbs,
19, also faced the death penalty, but different juries recommended that
they serve life in prison for Hanna's death. The 3rd woman, Stephanie
Cull, 19, was charged with 1st-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in
prison. All 3 are white.
According to court testimony, at least 2 of the defendants had been
romantically involved and all the defendants believed the victim was
trying to interfere.
Before setting aside the verdict, Gill commented, "I do not think for a
minute that this jury regarded sex or race in returning the verdict that
"This has been a particularly difficult case because you have 2 other
defendants tried under the same law," he said. "There is no question
that this was a heinous crime."
Gill then asked Winckler whether she had anything to say before he
She turned to the front row of the other side of the courtroom toward
Wilson and said, with tears streaming down her face, "I just want to say,
Cathy, that I'm sorry for what I did." The rest of her remarks were
drowned out by sobs.
Outside the courthouse, her mother, Pamela Winckler, said, "What they did
was a terrible thing....But to kill somebody for killing someone isn't
evening things out at all."
The defendant's grandfather, Frank O. Winckler Sr., attended all the
trials and said, "The Winckler family owes Stacey Hanna's mother more
than we can ever put into words. What she did was very courageous, and
what she said comes from her heart."
He acknowledged the brutality of the defendants but added, "They're
family and you still have to love them and help them as much as you can."
According to testimony at the 4 trials, Hanna came from Lynchburg in
early July to Richmond to help a 5th woman, Dana Vaughn, move.
Hanna decided to stay, got a job at a bagel shop and moved into a town
house in the city with Vaughn, Tibbs and another woman.
Hanna developed an obsession for Tibbs, who had recently ended a lesbian
relationship with Bitner. Bitner was a frequent visitor to the home, as
was Winckler, who lived around the corner, and Cull, who lived in Chester.
Tibbs and Bitner learned on July 27 that Hanna had lied to both of them
in an apparent effort to prevent them from rekindling their relationship.
They and Cull decided to beat her up to teach her a lesson. They took
her in Cull's car to a drinking spot in the county near the Chesterfield
Airport under a pretext of partying.
Once there, all 4 girls attacked Hanna, hitting her with a belt,
slashing her with box cutters and beating her with their fists and feet.
They left her in a field briefly but returned and put her in the trunk of
Cull's car. They decided that they would have to kill her to keep her
from reporting the attack to police, and they took her to a gravel trail.
At 1 point, Winckler took Hanna's watch and rings as the other defendants
stood over her and spit on her in the trunk of the car.
inally, Tibbs, Bitner and Winckler half-carried Hanna 400 feet down the
trail to a muddy area, where she was slashed and beaten again. Medical
Examiner Marcella F. Fierro concluded that she died from a combination of
drowning and loss of blood.
Fierro said he had at least 65 stab or cut wounds on her body, including
2 on her back that were more than a foot long.
In urging Gill to impose the death penalty, Commonwealth's Attorney
William W. Davenport emphasized that Winckler was the one who robbed
Hanna and was perhaps the most vicious in attacking Hanna.
Moreover, he said, the Virginia Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected
efforts to compare the sentences of co-defendants.
Defense attorney D. Gregory Carr responded, "We could spend weeks talking
about a qualitative difference" in the conduct of the defendants, but
"you can't separate them on a qualitative basis."
"The most noble of all people here is Cathy Wilson," he said. "What
Stacey Hanna is doing is speaking through her mother."
Sentencing Winckler to life in prison "is about simple fairness," he
said. "Life in prison, in fact, death in prison, is retribution, but it
is also fair."
(source: Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Last week in Richmond, Virginia, pretrial hearings began for three lesbian roommates and another woman
charged with various murder, abduction, and robbery counts in the bludgeoning death of Stacey Hanna, 19, whose
battered body was recovered from a Chesterfield County woods on July 27. The Associated Press reports that
accused lesbians Domica Winkler, 18, Tracy Bitner, 19, and Kelly Tibbs, 18, "were involved romantically with
one another," and that investigators believe Hanna's subsequent romance with one of the women upset the
household and spurred the women to beat Hanna, ultimately to death. The fourth alleged accomplice, Stephanie
Cull, 18, has been indicted on slightly lesser charges.