Murderer Says He Killed Over Interracial Relationships

A man accused of killing a teenager in South Carolina says he did so to keep her from sleeping with Black men.

Recently a blog about race and class issues in Washington, D.C., asked readers to share their stories about interracial dating in the nation’s capital. While some readers reported problems, many said that their experiences had been noteworthy not for the problems they’d faced, but for how simple they’d had it.


“When I mentioned this article to my wife,” wrote one reader named Luis, “she asked if I was going to comment on it. ‘Wait, we’re interracial, right?’ She had to double-check. We often forget. When it comes to our relationship I don’t really see race. We haven’t been in D.C. that long, but most places we’ve been, we are pretty comfortable in public.”


But while some interracial couples in major American cities have a relatively easy go of it, and while there’s actually a very good case to be made for dating outside your race, in some pockets of the world, doing so safely is simply not an option.


On Monday, a jury in the trial of a 49-year-old man named Danny Hembree watched a taped confession of Hembree saying he committed murder over interracial dating. Hembree, who is being tried in York County, South Carolina, is accused of killing 17-year-old Heather Catterton in 2009, a crime he told police he committed after he gave crack to Catterton in exchange for sex. Yet despite the fact that he had sex with her after giving her drugs, Hembree says he killed Catterton to keep her from having sex with Black men in order to afford crack. “I just released her from that,” he said in the video. “I wasn’t mad or nothing. She was just better off.”


Hembree also admitted to having committed two other murders when he was arrested for Catterton’s killing, although those didn’t seem to be racially motivated.   


This story obviously isn’t meant to discourage anyone from dating outside their race, and most people who date interracially will never come across someone as cruel and damaged as Hembree. But Catterton’s case should serve as a reminder that there are still violent bigots in the world who refuse to progress. Things are getting better, but they’re still far from perfect.


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