Teen’s Killer Tries to Help Homosexual Youths Cope
Robert M. Rosenkrantz says he has been helping other youths deal with the problems of homosexuality since his arrest last year for the slaying of a schoolmate.
In a jail cell interview over the weekend, Rosenkrantz, who was convicted last Monday of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Steven Redman, said he has received and answered hundreds of letters from troubled homosexual youths. One bailiff said Rosenkrantz gets more mail than any of the other 1,736 inmates in the Hall of Justice Jail.
Rosenkrantz, 19, said he came to terms with his homosexuality only after being jailed for killing Redman, who with Rosenkrantz’s brother, Joey, 17, spied on Robert in an attempt to prove he was a homosexual. The two youths later told Robert’s parents. Rosenkrantz shot Redman 10 times with an Uzi semiautomatic weapon.
Rosenkrantz’s attorney, Richard S. Plotin, arranged the interview for reporters at the Hall of Justice Jail on the condition that no questions be asked about the shooting. Gabe Kruks, who has been counseling Rosenkrantz, was present during the interview.
“It’s easier to talk about now,” Rosenkrantz said of his homosexuality. “Since people know, I don’t have anything to lose, really, where I am now. I wouldn’t say that I feel good, but it’s acceptance. . . . It was a major worry for many years and now it’s gone.
“It seems like every gay kid I talk to goes through the same exact thing,” said the soft-spoken youth, dressed in the baby-blue uniform that distinguishes homosexual prisoners, who are housed separately from the rest of the inmate population.
Rosenkrantz said the letters have helped him fight loneliness and fear during the nearly 11 months he has been incarcerated. Some of the letters have been “groupie letters, like a rock singer would get, from people who just identified so strongly with my case . . . really lonely people,” Rosenkrantz said.
But most have been cries for help from troubled teen-agers who are in positions similar to the one Rosenkrantz was once in, he said.
Rosenkrantz said he advises that the homosexual teen-agers call the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in Hollywood, which operates a program called Temenos. Temenos sponsors a youth talk line and provides free counseling and other services to homosexual youths.
Kruks and another center counselor contacted him in jail, he said, after reading about his case. “Without them, there’s no way I would be sitting here talking. I was not able to say ‘I’m gay’ until I was in custody,” Rosenkrantz said.
“At the time that we first contacted Rob, he was completely isolated from the gay community . . . and suicidal,” Kruks said. He said Rosenkrantz was given what amounted to “a crash course in gay identity.”
The letters from teen-agers--and even sympathetic heterosexual adults and parents of homosexual children--began pouring in late last summer, Rosenkrantz said.
Rosenkrantz said he tries to help homosexual youths “realize that what they’re going through is completely normal; all the self-hatred, worries and fears are completely normal.”
Rosenkrantz displayed a letter from one San Fernando Valley youth who later sought help from the gay and lesbian center.
“It was probably the first time in my life that I ever talked to another gay person,” the youth wrote. “Afterward, I felt very relieved and very good.”
Rosenkrantz said he has also tried to help homosexual youths he meets in the jail’s homosexual ward. Many have been arrested on prostitution or drug-related offenses, he said. Rosenkrantz displayed a jubilant note from a runaway homosexual youth from Florida whom he met in jail. He said he advised the jailed youth to call his parents.
“His parents were so thrilled to hear from him, they didn’t care he was gay,” Rosenkrantz said. They sent him a ticket home and bought him a sports car.
In the meantime, the attitude toward homosexuals at Calabasas High School has grown worse since the murder case, according to teachers and students at the school.
Rosenkrantz is a graduate of Calabasas. Had he lived, Steven Redman would have graduated from Calabasas on Thursday.
Since the shooting, school officials have stepped up efforts to fight prejudice against homosexuality and help homosexual students through the use of movies, speakers, a peer-counseling program and other methods, said Robert Donahue, Calabasas High School assistant principal.
But Donahue said he worries that the shooting of Redman by Rosenkrantz may have reinforced students’ hostility toward homosexuals.
“To have a young gay man go out and do what he did just confirms their attitudes that homosexuals are crazy as hell,” he said. “I think a kid who is gay is probably in the worst position of any minority.”
Rosenkrantz, who is to be sentenced July 7, faces the possibility of a sentence of 17 years to life. He said he intends to take college correspondence courses while in prison and still hopes to become a lawyer.