By DAVID L. TEIBEL
The father of a man beaten to death with a baseball bat June 12 says he fears that his son was killed because he was gay, and he wants the killer to be sentenced to death.
“I’m hoping it was just a random thing,” Paul A. Walsted said of his son Philip Walsted’s slaying.
But, Paul Walsted said, “If it was a hate crime because my son was gay, that makes it even worse.”
Detectives have said robbery was a motive in the killing, and they are investigating whether Philip’s slaying also was motivated in part by hatred of gays.
“We do believe robbery was a factor in the motive, but that doesn’t eliminate that it could have been a hate crime,” said Sgt. Marco Borboa, a Tucson police spokesman.
So far, Borboa said, “We haven’t been able to determine that it was a hate crime.”
There is no charge called “hate crime.”
Deputy County Attorney David White explained that hate as a motive in a killing is a factor a judge may consider in imposing a sentence.
But, Borboa said, “If we charge first-degree murder, how much worse does it get?”
The maximum penalty for first-degree murder is death.
So far this year, two anti-gay or anti-lesbian hate crimes have been reported to Tucson police.
Details on the crimes were unavailable, as were statistics on hate crimes reported last year.
Walsted, 24, an American Airlines reservations worker, was found at 4:50 a.m., lying in the street at East Fifth Street and North Hoff Avenue, about a block and a half from his home, on North Fourth Avenue.
He had been beaten, police said.
He was taken to University Medical Center, where he died shortly after 7 a.m. that day.
Police arrested David Higdon, 20, of the 2500 block of East Florence Drive on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery in Walsted’s death.
Higdon is being held in the Pima County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail on the charges.
A police search of Higdon’s home turned up Walsted’s drivers license, keys on an American Airlines key ring, two baseball bats, undisclosed amounts of suspected marijuana and suspected cocaine and various other items, according to a court-filed inventory of the seized property.
The senior Walsted said he last saw his son about a week before his death when the young man went to his father’s Southeast Side apartment to take him to lunch.
Paul Walsted, who was disabled in a 1992 traffic collision, said he lives on Social Security disability payments and has little money to spare.
He said his son came by once or twice a month, sometimes more, to take him to lunch.
When Paul Walsted last saw Philip, “He was happy with his job,” the older man said.
“He was fortunate in the last couple of years,” Walsted said. “He got to travel. He went to England, he went to Bermuda.”
“He was a decent young man. He had his problems, like anyone, but he was a good young man.”
Philip was openly gay, his father said.
And he “used to experiment with drugs,” his father said, but he lived with a man who “had gotten his (Philip’s) life turned around.”
“It’s been very difficult on me,” Paul Walsted said of the weeks since his son’s slaying.
“I don’t know if the person who did this will get the death penalty. I hope so,” he said.
“I’ll be there at the trial. The bastard that killed my son, I hope he dies.”
White said prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty, a decision they have about two more months to make.