AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leonard Foster, 81, was found dead in his apartment Saturday, and his family believes the suspect may have targeted him because he was gay. The Austin Police Department said it was still investigating his death but added it has “no indication that it was a bias-motivated crime at this time.”
On Feb. 18, Foster’s family called for a welfare check, and police ultimately found Foster’s body in his neighbor’s apartment. That neighbor, 23-year-old Tamorian Moore, was arrested and charged with murder.
We have reached out to Moore’s attorney but have not heard back yet.
“Shocked, hurt, angry, all of the above,” said Foster’s sister Lois Barnett.
According to an arrest affidavit, Moore said he “lived across from a pedophile” who had “been watching him since he moved in,” according to the affidavit. When police questioned him about this, Moore said he did not want to talk about him. KXAN searched both the national and state sex offender registries for Foster, but Foster was not listed. APD confirmed it had no information Foster had been “investigated for any sex-related offenses.”
Investigators said Foster died from blunt and sharp force trauma to the head. The affidavit also states police found Moore with a trash bag filled with paper towels and a pillow that looked like it was covered in blood.
“He did not deserve that. A wonderful, beautiful spirit,” said Foster’s niece Debra Adams. “He was so very loved. That’s why he was missed so soon.”
When an officer asked Moore if he killed Foster, Moore responded he didn’t, but Lucifer did, according to the arrest affidavit.
Foster’s family believes the attack may have been a hate crime.
“We would like to see the charges upgraded,” Adams said.
Specific criteria must be met for an action to be considered a hate crime, as explained in this case about a man who set a synagogue on a fire.
The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” according to its website.
“It doesn’t involve the criminal law unless the hate is the reason people act out,” said retired judge Charlie Baird. “[Hate] cannot just be part of the reason, it has to be the motivating factor.”
Baird said it can often take an extensive investigation before law enforcement can officially deem something a hate crime.
“And the reason for that is because a hate crime increases the range of punishment for which an individual can be punished,” said Baird. “It would depend on the actions of the defendant. Perhaps writings, perhaps groups he’s a member of, perhaps conversations he’s had with people.”
He added that the location of a crime can also prompt law enforcement to more quickly deem something a hate crime.
“For example if it occurs in a mosque or synagogue, it might have an indication that the hate crime in those were based upon the characteristic of a religious faith,” said Baird.
We have reached out to Moore’s attorney, but have not yet heard back.