Police: Were more men murdered?
The cases of several missing gay men may be examined for connections to men implicated in two 2003 Tampa slayings.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER and KEVIN GRAHAM
Published May 24, 2005
TAMPA - For nearly four years, Bradley Williams' mother waited for a break in the case of her missing son. He was last seen leaving a Tampa bar frequented by Steven Lorenzo and Scott Schweickert, the duo recently implicated in the 2003 murders of two other gay men.
Three weeks ago, authorities called Julie Williams at her Ferrysburg, Mich., home. Investigators in Tampa, awaiting the forensic results of blood-soaked items seized from Lorenzo's Seminole Heights garage, wanted a sample of her DNA.
Williams said she and her husband sent the samples to Tampa without hesitation, hoping their DNA would help detectives determine whether Bradley died inside Lorenzo's renovated bungalow.
Now, as gruesome details emerge about the murder allegations against Lorenzo and Schweickert, Williams said she feels certain Bradley was among their victims.
Bradley Williams is one of several missing gay men whose cases may be examined for a possible connection to Lorenzo and Schweickert.
"We believe there could be dozens more victims out there," said Brian Winfield, a spokesman for Equality Florida, a statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
"We're very concerned, especially knowing all the horrific things we know now," Winfield said. "If there's any tie to these individuals in jail and these other cases, we want to know."
* * *
Schweickert, 39, has not been charged with murder, but authorities say he implicated himself in the killings of Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz, 26-year-old men who lived in Tampa and disappeared in late December 2003.
Federal prosecutors are charging Schweickert as an accessory after the fact to a drug-facilitated crime of violence. Schweickert, of Peru, Ill., is in the county jail without bail.
In an affidavit, an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration said Schweickert detailed how he and Lorenzo, 46, met the two men one day apart at 2606, a West Tampa bar. The affidavit says Schweickert and Lorenzo invited the men to Lorenzo's Seminole Heights bungalow, sexually assaulted them, killed them and dumped their bodies.
Lorenzo has not been charged with murder, but he has been in jail since November and is accused of drugging, kidnapping and sexually assaulting six men between 2000 and 2003. He entered a not guilty plea and his trial is scheduled for October.
Lawyer Donald Harrison, who represents Lorenzo on the November 2004 drug and sexual assault charges, said his client denies involvement with Galehouse or Wachholtz.
Harrison said prosecutors are stretching to find evidence.
"They're desperate," he said. "They're going from dead end to dead end." He called the searches of Lorenzo's Seminole Heights bungalow "nothing more than investigatory." He questioned whether authorities had cause to search in the first place.
According to the affidavit released Friday, investigators searched Lorenzo's home last year and found newspaper articles about Galehouse, Wachholtz and "other missing or dead individuals." They also found on Lorenzo's computer and on digital tapes thousands of images depicting sex acts in which men were bound and appeared to be "in a comatose-like state," according to the affidavit.
"Was Brad one of those pictured?" Julie Williams wondered Monday. "I don't want him to be, because I don't want him to be gone. But I want to know, because I just want an end to all the wondering."
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Williams, a 32-year-old Tampa postal employee, was last seen June 8, 2001, at Metropolis, a bar off Kennedy Boulevard. His car was found abandoned nearby. He used to live in an apartment at 4214 W Habana Ave., less than a mile from the West Hillsborough Baptist Church where Schweickerttold authorities he and Lorenzo dumped part of Galehouse's body.
Mark Allen Thompson, 34, of Clearwater, vanished four months later, after spending Halloween night at the Pro Shop Pub in Clearwater. Thompson's 1998 Ford Ranger was found a few days later in Tampa.
"In light of recent events, I am sure they are re-examining everything," Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor said.
Winfield said Equality Florida also has sent local authorities information about Mark Douglas Jackson of Fort Lauderdale.
Jackson, 36, was last seen entering his Drake Tower condominium at 1800 N Andrews Ave. early in the morning of June 26, 2004. Winfield said surveillance cameras show Jackson entering the condo but never leaving..
Records show Lorenzo listed an apartment at 1785 N Andrews Ave. as a residence from 1999 to 2000.
Eric Bunch, a longtime friend of Galehouse, has worked with Galehouse's friend Tyler Hall to identify five gay men who disappeared under similar circumstances. "We did all the footwork that a basic detective would be doing," said Bunch, 32, of Bradenton. "We were going for a while 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We were in Tampa until 3 a.m. handing out fliers, asking questions. We picked up prostitutes because we heard they were victims, too."
According to an Illinois affidavit with details about the cases of six men who said Lorenzo drugged and assaulted them, one victim was a Kennedy Boulevard prostitute hired by Lorenzo in December 2002. The male prostitute told Tampa police that Lorenzo once took him to his home at 213 W Powhatan Ave., tied his hands and feet, gagged him and made him lose consciousness by suffocating him with a plastic bag. The prostitute said Lorenzo drugged his drinks. Lorenzo offered to show the man pictures of other men he had tortured the same way, according to the affidavit.
Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy would not give specifics about the department's investigation of Lorenzo, but she said detectives are "making progress" and working with other agencies that have missing persons cases with "similarities" to those of Galehouse and Wachholtz.
She confirmed the department s working with Chicago police, who announced Sunday they are investigating whether Schweickert is connected to at least two unsolved murders there.
Brad Winters, a theater company director, was found strangled and stabbed in his Chicago apartment in August 2003. Kevin Clewer, 31, was found stabbed to death in March 2004 in his apartment, about four blocks from the address where Schweickert had his AOL account bills sent, according to investigators.
"The police here always said they weren't related," said Steve Emily, who was in the theater company with Winters. "But we felt it was too similar. There's something going on. I don't know what, but it's got to stop."
--Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified May 24, 2005, 04:20:30]
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