The House at Heartland Crossing

When a male couple in their 70s were brutally killed in their Indiana home last fall, it seemed like a clear-cut hate crime. No one suspected that the killer might be a man whom one of the elderly victims had met while cruising online.

BY Tim Murphy

April 05 2009 11:00 PM ET

1026 HEARTLAND HOUSE X100 (AJ MAST) | ADVOCATE.COM

Nobody believes anymore that Lindgren’s and Hendricks’s murders were hate crimes -- as hate crimes are commonly understood. Instead, most people -- including those Indiana activists who first pointed to the murders as the latest evidence that the state needs enhanced hate-crime protections -- now assume that Brown left the note and cut the wires to make the murders appear to be a hate crime. Still, these activists are confident that they’re finally on the brink of squeezing such a law through the legislature this year -- partly, they say, because it will allow lawmakers to sidestep the marriage debate while also letting them say they passed a gay-friendly bill.

Still, can’t it be argued that the brutality of the crimes might have been an expression of Brown’s own self-hatred over his possible gay feelings? Or that staging the murders to look like a hate crime is a kind of hate crime in itself? No, says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “I’m not saying that it doesn’t cause distrust in a community,” he says. “It’s a terrible thing. But the actual, intentional selection of the victims was not done because of their sexual orientation.” Of course, gay people have committed hate crimes against their own, Levin adds. In a 2007 New York trial, a defendant accused of manslaughter in the death of gay man Michael Sandy disclosed in court that he too is gay. The jury still found him guilty of a hate crime, and he was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, compared to the four to 12 years he likely would’ve received without the hate-crime enhancement, according to his attorney.

And what about Lindgren himself? Did his decades in the closet play into his risky dalliances with men like Brown? Lindgren was a lovely, kind, trusting, hospitable man, as everyone took pains to say. But could he have been too trusting and hospitable? Roudebush says her father was plagued by horrible headaches his whole life -- until he came out of the closet. After that, he always said he’d never been happier.

But in many ways his life remained compartmentalized. In recent years, he’d attended a close-knit Lutheran church in nearby Mooresville, whose pastor, David Dehnke, spoke warmly of Lindgren at his memorial service. Dehnke’s wife, Suellen, says today that, as loved as Lindgren was in the congregation, nobody knew he was gay. And had they known? “Definitely we would have had to have a conversation about that,” she says, “because that’s not in our teachings.”

Lindgren had heard that message all his life. That he embraced nudism in his 60s is a kind of perfect metaphor for his late-in-life liberation. That he opened his home to all manner of men couldn’t have been solely about neighborly trust. His understandable appetite to experience all he had missed as a young man may have made him a little reckless. Maybe there was residual shame involved too. Perhaps these are some of the reasons 9160 Middlebury Way is no longer just one of the countless identical homes of Heartland Crossing. There it sits, blank and plain -- except for what we now know happened inside.

“I’ll come home at times and look at the house and I still almost cannot believe that that’s where my friends and neighbors were brutally murdered,” Bev Marker says. “It just seems so far out of the realm of my world and what happens to people I know.”

Tags: Crime

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