High Park Homophobia

Courtroom drawing of Bauer, Bedard, Christou, Burak and Juszczuk by Joern Fresset for CFTO Television
Courtroom drawing of Bauer, Bedard, Christou, Burak and Juszczuk by Joern Fresset for CFTO Television

Public school librarian Kenneth Zeller, 40, was mobbed in High Park by five teenage boys. He would be found later, slumped in his car. He had been chased by five young men, caught and beaten, dying of head injuries. They left him unconscious. It was the last day of school for the killers before summer break.

Black and white photo of murder victim Kenneth Zeller

Zeller had been out that evening at a party drinking with friends. The Crown attorneys played down Zeller’s homosexuality throughout the trial although “the issue is that these boys perceived him to be homosexual and felt that justified attacking him,” Crown attorney Richard LeDressay said.

Black and white photo of murder victim Kenneth Zeller

Police were called at about 12:15 am on June 22, 1985, but Zeller was dead when he arrived in hospital an hour later. His car windows were smashed and the air was let out of his tires.

They all agreed to be tried as adults, and waive their rights to a preliminary hearing, in exchange for a sentence reduced from second-degree murder to manslaughter. Richard Leo Bauer, 15, Michael David Bedard, 18, Steven Christou, 16, Michael Christopher Burak, 16 and Henryk John Juszczuk, 16, were put on trial for murder. Three others were there but did not participate (nor attempt to stop) the attack.

Drawings of attack for Toronto Life article Gay Bashing in High Park April 1986
Drawings of attack for Toronto Life article Gay Bashing in High Park April 1986

People overhead them planning to visit High Park to “beat up a fag,” and “get money from a queer.” They saw Zeller on a pathway known as a gay lover’s lane, thought he was gay, and attacked him. He was chased by five of the eight young men more than 130 metres to his car. They kicked him, beat him, trashed his car and left him. He sustained the attack by five men for about three minutes.

Drawings of attack for Toronto Life article Gay Bashing in High Park April 1986
Drawings of attack for Toronto Life article Gay Bashing in High Park April 1986

The killers wept as Justice Gregory Evans sentenced each to nine years in prison after each pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

Artist Robin Fulford wrote Steel Kiss, a play based on Zeller’s murder, which played at the Poor Alex Theatre in late 1987.

From the play Steel Kiss, photo by Tim McKenna, for the Globe and Mail
From the play Steel Kiss, photo by Tim McKenna, for the Globe and Mail

Burak, Christou, Juszczuk and Bauer were all given release to continue high school, and permitted 72-hour unescorted temporary passes.

Kenneth Zeller's grave marker, Stouffville Cemetery, Stouffville
Kenneth Zeller’s grave marker, Stouffville Cemetery, Stouffville

 


Murder Village Map

 

 

Vital Statistics

Name: Kenneth Zeller
Age: 40
Gender: Male
Date of Death: June 22, 1985
Manner of Death: Blunt force trauma
Location: High Park
Suspect Name: Richard Leo Bauer, Michael David Bedard, Steven Christou, Michael Christopher Burak, Henryk John Juszczuk
Conviction & Sentence: Manslaughter, nine years for each

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