Unsafe Haven

June 21,1993 The New Republic

On May 27, in Yokosuka, Japan, Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Allen Schindler in a public restroom in Sasebo, Japan. Schindler who was homosexual, was so badly beaten that the Navy pathologist described his injuries as "more consistent with a high- speed automobile accident or lo-speed airplane crash. " Schindler's liver "contained holes that allowed him (the pathologist) to see straight through it. " What follows is the testimony of Airman Charles E. Vins, Helvey's companion in the murder who was released on February 2 after three months in confinement in return for his testimony. The same day as the verdict, Senator Sam Nunn voiced opposition to a proposal that would allow gay soldiers to be open about their sexuality offbase. He feared it would provide them a "safe haven" from military life.-The Editors

As we left the bar . . . Helvey noticed another sailor off our ship, Allen Schindler, walking by himself in front of us. I would have to say Schindler was no more than ten yards in front of us. In fact, the way he was walking, he must have passed the bar he came out of just prior to our departure. When Helvey saw him he said something to the effect, "Let's go fuck with him." I cannot recall if I responded to his statement, as it was not a question, it was more like a statement he made. At which time . . . we walked behind Schindler to see where he was going. I do not recall everything we said, but we were just wondering where he was going, who he might be meeting and why he was off the ship. We knew he was on restriction for confessing to be a homosexual and was being kicked off the ship. I was just going by what Helvey told me a week prior. I do not actually recall how it came up or where we were, but I think it was in the galley. Helvey told that Schindler was a homosexual, but he did not get into details about Schindler's homosexual conduct. I think at this time I should bring up the fact that Helvey has made no attempts to hide the fact that he dis-likes homosexuals, and when he said he wanted to fuck with Schindler, I felt in my mind that he wanted to beat him up. Although he never came out and said that, I believed it to be so just by the way he acts and the things he has told me. He talks about kicking homosexuals' asses a lot. But I think it should be said he talks about doing that to all kinds of people. Anyway, we both follow Schindler for a while. He walked in a horseshoe pattern from the city across a bridge to the Albuquerque park. As we were following him, we lost him for a second around by some bushes, but Helvey later pointed in the direction of a bathroom and said he walked in there. The next thing I knew (I say we were about ten to fifteen yards from the bathroom), Helvey takes off and runs into the bathroom. I would say Schindler was already in the bathroom for about forty seconds. I did not run, but I was in the bathroom within a couple of seconds after Helvey. As I entered the bathroom I could see that Schindler, who had his back to me, was urinating in one of the urinals. I did not actually see this. I am just assuming that's what he was doing. At the same time I saw Helvey (he too had his back to me). He was standing at the urinal right next to Schindler pretending to go to the bathroom. He had his right hand clinched into a fist over his head as if he was getting ready to punch Schindler. Again, I did not actually see that he was just pretending to he urinating. I just got that impression by the way he was standing with his fist in the air. The next thing I knew I saw Schindler look toward Helvey. It was more a look as if he felt someone's presence next to him and wanted to see who it was. That's all he did. I did not see them talking to each other. I did not see Schindler expose himself to Helvey. And I did not see Schindler attempt to touch Helvey. As soon as Schindler looked in Helvey's direction, I saw Helvey come down hard with his fist and strike Schindler in the face. Schindler fell hard to the floor immediately. As soon as Helvey struck Schindler he bent down over his (Schindler's) head and got him into a head lock and held his neck tight, choking him, for a few seconds. When Helvey had Schindler in the choke hold, Schindler, in what appeared to be an instinctive move, placed his arms up around Helvey's head in an attempt to try to break free from his grasp. At the same time, but I am not sure, I think I saw Schindler bite Helvey's arm. I say this because Helvey yelled . . . Helvey said something to the effect that, "The son of a bitch bit me." When Helvey yelled I kicked Schindler in the head with the bottom or heel of my right foot. I do not know exactly where I struck him, but it was somewhere between his forehead and the top of his head. I did not kick him that hard, just hard enough so he would release his grip from Helvey, which he did. When Schindler released Helvey, Helvey also released the choke hold he had on him. At that time, Schindler was still conscious and in a crouched position on his feet. I looked down on him and thought he was going to come after me. So using the toe of my right foot I kicked Schindler on his right side. He did not fall backward, so, I believe I kicked him in the same manner and same location two more times.... After the third kick, I felt Helvey put his arm out and touch me and call out my name "Chuck," at which time he kicked Schindler in the head. With that kick, Schindler fell onto his back. Schindler was still conscious at this time. After that, Helvey just continued to kick Schindler. It looked like he was kicking a soccer ball. I kept hearing thuds every time he kicked him. He then started working his way down. I would have to say Helvey kicked Schindler to the right side of his head at least five to ten times real hard. Blood was all over the place. His face was covered with blood. Helvey then started down and began to kick and stomp on Schindler's chest and torso.... I could not tell you how many times he kicked and stomped on his chest, but it was several. It lasted for at least thirty seconds. The last thing he did before I left was I saw Helvey stomp on Schindler's throat. He stepped on his throat very hard and then put all his weight on it. Although I did not attempt to stop Helvey after my involvement, I do not feel I was responsible for Schindler's death. None of the blows I struck Schindler with were, in my opinion, life-threatening, or caused his unconsciousness. I think that is why Helvey is taking the blame for the death. He knew my part was limited to just a few blows. He knows he caused the most severe damage and killed Schindler. During the time I was watching Helvey, I do not know exactly how I was standing. I just know I stood by and watched.