Jesse Dirkhising, also known as Jesse Yates, was the son of Tina and Miles Yates Jr. from the small town of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, USA and was born on 24th May 1986. At the time of his death he was 13.
He was staying with two men (with his parents’ permission) about 30 miles away in Rogers, a “small but booming northwest Arkansas town.”
Dirkhising had stayed with Davis Carpenter (then 38) and 22-year-old Joshua Macave Brown at their apartment on weekends for two months prior to his death. Jesse’s family had been told that he was helping out at the salon.
Please be aware that the following details are very gruesome and may be difficult for some.
How was Jesse Dirkhising Murdered?
On September 26, 1999, Dirkhising’s murder was brought to the attention of police at Rogers, Arkansas, when they responded to a 911 call. They went to the home of Davis Carpenter and Joshua Macave Brown. Carpenter, who managed a beauty salon, was a friend of Dirkhising’s parents.
Police found that Jesse Dirkhising had been tied to a mattress and that his ankles, knees, and wrists had been bound with duct tape and belts.
Dirkhising had been gagged with his own underwear, a bandana and duct tape. Brown told police they had given Dirkhising an enema of urine dosed with amitriptyline, an antidepressant and a sedative.
Police determined that Dirkhising had been repeatedly raped over a period of several hours. It was later revealed that over a two-day period Dirkhising had been repeatedly raped and sodomised with various objects.
During a break, Brown noticed Dirkhising was not breathing and alerted Carpenter, who attempted to resuscitate the boy, then called 911. Jesse Dirkhising later died in the hospital, his death quickened apparently as the result of positional asphyxia.
Police found material of a pedophile nature in Carpenter’s home, including instructions on how to sedate a child, and a diagram of how to tie up and position the boy, as well as other notes of fantasies of molesting children.
It was speculated that one of the men planned the assault and the other carried it out.
Trial testimony showed that Carpenter and Brown contemplated cleaning Jesse in the shower or dumping his body somewhere else before Carpenter called 911.
The Arkansas State Police recorded in their affidavit a statement by Brown that he had been molesting Dirkhising for at least two months prior to Dirkhising’s death. Brown called the molestation ‘horseplay’ and claimed that Dirkhising was a willing participant.
According to the age of consent laws in Arkansas, Dirkhising was incapable of giving informed consent for sexual activity. Brown also later claimed he himself was “under the influence of methamphetamine” when talking with his arresting officers.
On 22nd October 1999, approximately one month after his death, The Washington Times ran a story with the headline “Media tune out torture death of Arkansas boy.” The story contrasted the lack of coverage of the Dirkhising case with the murder of Matthew Shepard, which we have covered before on the podcast.
The story quoted Tim Graham, director of media studies at Media Research Center, a Conservative media watchdog group that frequently criticises liberal bias, as saying, “Nobody wants to say anything negative about homosexuals. Nobody wants to be seen on the wrong side of that issue.”
Brent Bozell, media critic and director of the Media Research Center, accused the media of deliberately spiking the story. Bozell wrote, “Had he been openly gay and his attackers heterosexual, the crime would have led all the networks. But no liberal media outlet has as its villains two gay men.”
After The Washington Times article, the lack of coverage of Jesse Dirkhising’s case was noted by conservative commentators and was attributed to the homosexuality of the perpetrators as well as the nature of the crimes. Conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan noted that showing gay men as sadistic barbarians does not fit the “villain-victim script of our cultural elite.”
The Matthew Shepard murder was approaching its first anniversary and was getting another round of national attention, coupled with updates on pending hate crime legislation.
The Dirkhising case was repeatedly compared with the media coverage of the murder of Matthew Shepard, although the cases were dissimilar in several important details.
While both victims died as the result of assaults by two men, Jesse Dirkhising was a minor and the victim of a sex crime, while the adult Shepard was ostensibly murdered as part of a hate crime.
While both heterosexuality and homosexuality have been cited as issues in both cases, the circumstances were different and in contrast: Shepard was an openly gay man who was attacked by two heterosexual men, while Dirkhising was raped by two men who were described as lovers. It was described by some as merely another sordid sex crime.
Davis Carpenter and Joshua Brown were each charged with capital murder and six counts of rape, and they faced the death penalty in Arkansas for the crimes. Neither men had any known prior convictions.
Trial and Convictions
The two men were tried separately, as it was believed that each of them would blame the other for the murder.
The Arkansas state prosecutor maintained that “the older man had mapped out the assault and watched a portion of it” so chose to send Brown (the younger lover) to trial first.
Carpenter’s court-appointed attorney, criminal defence lawyer Tim Buckley, sought a change of venue from Benton County citing excessive pretrial publicity. “It’s been on everyone’s lips down here for a month and a half,” Buckley stated. So he felt his client would not get a fair trial.
The Washington Post was “almost alone among national newspapers” reporting on Brown’s trial and Fox News was the only network to cover the murder trial and conviction.
The prosecutors “argued that Jesse suffocated to death during the sexual assault because of a combination of the drugs and the way he was trussed up.”
In March 2001, Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder and rape.
He was sentenced to life in prison, and this sentence was upheld on appeal by the Arkansas Supreme Court in September 2003.
In April 2001, Carpenter pleaded guilty to similar charges and was also sentenced to life.
Subsequently, Carpenter said on the Fox News Channel that Brown was solely responsible for the rape and murder of Dirkhising while Brown said that Carpenter was the director. So they were correct in assuming that they would blame each other.
As of 2013 Carpenter is in prison in the Arkansas Department of Corrections in the Tucker Maximum Security Unit.
He entered the state prison system on April 26, 2001. As of 2013 Joshua Macave Brown, is in the East Arkansas Regional Unit. He had been received into the state prison system on April 4, 2001.
No local memorials have been held since his brutal death at the hands of two homosexual predators who confessed to using the boy as a sex toy while torturing him to death.
Jesse’s classmates at Lincoln Middle School placed flowers on his school bus seat and memorialised his locker after his death.
You can listen to the episode and find out more for yourself here: