2 min

Is murdering a gay man less heinous than murdering a straight couple?

Killer gets fewer years for killing the man who sucked him off

Jesse Imeson walks into the Tap, a Windsor gay strip club, on Jul 17, 2007 looking for a job as an exotic dancer.

While in the club he strikes up a conversation with Carlos Rivera, a bartender and DJ who works there. The two leave together and spend the night partying at the home of another man.

Digital photos taken that night show Imeson and Rivera having a good time. In one Imeson mugs for the camera —he is a handsome devil —his arm around Rivera, his tongue stuck out as if to lick Rivera’s nipple.

Early on the morning of Jul 18 the two head together to Imeson’s room at a Windsor boarding house.

On Jul 19 Rivera’s lifeless body is found on Imeson’s bed.

Imeson’s canvas belt is wrapped twice around Rivera’s neck. Forensic examiners would later determine that Rivera was indeed strangled to death and that semen found in his mouth and on his shirt is Imeson’s.

Rivera’s credit cards and car are gone. So is Imeson.

Days later Imeson breaks into a Grand Bend-area home and uses electrical cords to bind Bill and Helene Regier before shooting them to death with a .22-calibre rifle.

On Oct 27, 2008 Ontario Crown prosecutors accept a plea bargain that will likely keep Imeson behind bars until he is an old man. Imeson pleads guilty to three counts of second-degree murder with sentences of 25 years on each count.

The result is complete: Imeson confesses, a cold-blooded killer gets the maximum penalty under Canadian law and friends and family of the victims are spared a gut-wrenching trial.

There remains but one loose end.

The deal provides for parole eligibility in Rivera’s murder after serving 15 years. In the cases of the Regiers, parole eligibility comes after 25 years.

It makes no substantive difference to Imeson’s sentence but the implicit message is that Rivera’s murder is somehow slightly less heinous than the Regier murders.

Crown prosecutors accepted, even in the face of compelling physical and eyewitness evidence to the contrary, that Imeson woke up to find Rivera sucking him off and that he became so enraged —presumably after he blew his load in Rivera’s mouth and on his shirt —that he killed him.

The Crown is happy to acknowledge that killing a bartender from a gay strip club who has just been kind enough to give you a blowjob is somehow not quite as bad as killing straight, white married people.

The Rivera case was a lock. There was DNA evidence on the body, numerous eyewitnesses to the meeting and movements of the killer and victim, photos that show them together with the murder weapon mere hours before the crime, at least two confessions and the not insignificant fact that Rivera’s body was found in Imeson’s bed. A first-year law student could have secured a conviction.

There is virtually no chance that Imeson would have gotten off had he gone to trial. The only reason to compromise with him was to avoid trial for the benefit of the families of the victims.

But the compromise the Crown made with Imeson comes at the expense of the memory of Carlos Rivera and every other gay man who has been attacked or murdered by self-hating, homophobic closet cases.

It allows Imeson, who deserves nothing but life behind bars, one smug, final insult.

As Imeson’s account of Rivera’s murder was read into the court record, Imeson reportedly shifted in his seat, smirked, nodded and said, “That’s right.”

Matt Mills is associate publisher and managing editor of Xtra West’s Toronto sister paper, Xtra.