How Similar Is Philly’s Gay Sex Crime With Swann Street’s?
Two hours to the north of Swann Street in the suburbs of Philadelphia a gay sex crime occurred with an eerie resemblance to the murder of Robert Wone. As a former resident of Philadelphia, this is unfortunate because the home of the world champion Phillies and Frank Rizzo has always felt like the forgotten step sister of east coast cities when compared to Boston, New York and Washington, DC.
And in this gruesome situation, nothing has changed. While Robert Wone’s murder has caught a certain amount of attention, the Philadelphia case has gone largely unnoticed, especially outside of the Delaware Valley region. One of the reasons maybe that Robert Wone’s murder remains a vexing puzzle with unforgiving riddles at the heart of both the prosecution and defense theories.
In the Philly case, from all accounts, the murder can be easily explained. Its only question is who exactly murdered the victim. What follows are a few of the details that help explain the case.
In the early morning hours of September 19, 2006, 48 days after Robert Wone’s murder, Jason Shephard, a 23 year old intern from North State University in North Dakota was strangled at William Smithson’s home, a supervisor at the company where Shephard was interning.
According to the prosecution, Smithson, 44, slipped the “date-rape” drug, gamma-hydroxybutric acid, or GHB, into Shephard’s Gatorade prior to trying to rape him. He then strangled Shephard with some type of ligature.
At the scene of the crime sex toys and sex aids were found.
A third man, F. Bruce Covington (aka Bruce Chapman) was also there, and was known for attending gay sex parties in the evening, bringing crystal methamphetamine, and was also experienced with injecting the drug. Covington acknowledged bringing illicit drugs to Smithson’s residence at the time of Shephard’s death but has denied knowing anything about the homicide.
Covington has a history of being quietly let go from positions he held in planned giving at universities, as well as in Mormon philanthropy. He was also immediately removed from his position as a Bishop in the Mormon Congregation where he lived in Utah. No answers have been given by the church.
Smithson readily admits that Jason Shephard came to his home in the Philadelphia suburbs for consensual sex. Shephard had been over at Smithson’s place the night before where sex took place. From an interview that Smithson gave to the Philadelphia Gay News, he says that he was so tired that when Shephard arrived a second time “the last thing I remember is Jason elbowing me and saying ‘you’re passing out.'”
Even with limited information publicly available, a chronology of events can be put together by this editor. Smithson had a few days off from work. He intended to have a party-and-play, or ‘pnp’, sex party at his home. Party-and-play is gay short hand for a sex party that includes crystal methamphetamine. The drug’s gay street name is commonly known as “tina”.
The first person to attend was Jason Shephard. They agreed to have sex either by talking about it at work, running into each other in a bar, or on an Internet gay sex hook up site. He and Jason ‘pnp’ and have sex. Jason leaves, Smithson stays up pursuing additional sexual hook ups online. Later, Jason returns.
Now they have already stayed up one night, their bodies are tired, so they seek a third person with tina. This will help keep them awake, and will also encourage their sexual appetite. Covington arrives before or after Smithson falls asleep. Smithson then contends that while he was asleep, Covington and Shephard ‘pnp.’
At some point, Covington goes beyond a certain point, freaks out and strangles Shephard. He leaves, Smithson awakes to find a dead body in his house. Because the body was found in Smithson’s home, authorities focused on Smithson.
He was convicted of the murder this year. His defense argued that the case did not reach reasonable doubt because Bruce Covington was also there, and should be looked at more closely. Since that time, Covington has been arrested on drug charges.
Those are the facts. Later this week we’ll look at the similarites and the differences and what they say about Robert’s case.
-posted by David