By Ryan Yousefi
By Chuck Strouse
By Terrence McCoy
By Terrence McCoy
By Terrence McCoy
By Michael E. Miller
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Michael E. Miller
Perdomo is willing to acknowledge the long-lasting affection and empathy shared by Zirwas and Ulises, though he doesn't go so far as to call it love. "There may have been something between them," he allows. "After all, they were together for over three years." He raises his eyebrows, looking bored, uncrosses his legs and stubs out the cigarette. "There may be exceptions, but to me there's no such thing as a faithful man or a happy marriage. That's bullshit. I think everybody is unfaithful."
In fact Zirwas himself was open about his sexuality and promiscuity, at least while he was in Havana. "George was unabashedly slutty, but who am I to judge," remarks a good friend, a foreigner who travels regularly to Cuba. "I just don't think a man who leaves the priesthood because he really enjoys gay sex is bad." Despite his brush with pedophile scandal in the past, and claims by some Cubans, there's no proof Zirwas pursued underage boys. "He was more into Lothario hairdresser types," an American friend points out, "and twentysomething college gay boys." Perdomo adds dryly: "George told me many times he didn't like young boys. He told me: 'Those are jailbait, the kind of boys you put in a closet and feed under the door until they grow up.'"
Defenders and detractors alike do agree Zirwas's lauded munificence didn't extend to paid sex. "When I was in Cuba last summer," an American friend writes in an e-mail, "some of the men spoke of [Zirwas's murder] as if the man who was killed was not very 'generous monetarily' to his tricks. The word in the streets was that it took place because of this fact. That is a possible motive for some infuriated homicidal hustler. He gave [to his "rent boys"] T-shirts and stuff, but he had a bad rep anyway. It was just the cheapskate game he played."
A surprising development two months before he died might have made Zirwas a little less discriminating or perceptive, or a little more likely to invite homicidal hustlers into his home. "I received some news which has shattered my little world here," Zirwas e-mailed an Internet pen pal in late March 2001. "Ulises has gotten an invitation to Spain. He of course is not going to return to Cuba."
One of the few ways a Cuban citizen can obtain a visa to visit any other country (and possibly never return) is to have a foreigner write a "letter of invitation," the first step in the visa process. "So my search for a new spouse has begun!" Zirwas continued valiantly. "Do you know of any Websites where Cuban boys post (the few and lucky that may have Internet connection)? Or anywhere they leave messages or descriptions about themselves. Please send me any info on this subject ASAP.
"Love, The Grand Duchess of Havana (now the Widow)."
Ulises hasn't responded to questions about the invitation (which he didn't mention in person), but by now it's irrelevant. His visa application was denied and Zirwas never found a new spouse. The recipient of the e-mail, who wishes to remain anonymous, cautions: "George sometimes exaggerated for (melo-)dramatic effect."
The motive for the senseless killing of Zirwas remains uncertain even after the trial and convictions of Abel Medina and Armando Vicente Alfonso. Since neither U.S. nor Cuban authorities responded to inquiries about the arrest and trial of the half-brothers, all information in this article about the legal case against Medina and Alfonso comes from accounts of people who spoke with police and attended the trial, which lasted three days in August 2001. None of Zirwas's immediate family attended, nor did the mother of the defendants.
Medina and Alfonso were arrested about ten days after Zirwas was found dead. Two friends of the former priest testified they were at the Calle Mazón apartment when Medina stopped by on Sunday, May 26, around 5:00 p.m. The friends said Zirwas told them he was getting a massage and that they could stick around, but they decided to go home and come back later. They did return around 8:00, and again at midnight, but no one answered their knocks on the door.
Medina told police he left the apartment around 7:00, after injecting Zirwas with an animal tranquilizer administered at the back of his neck, just below the base of his skull. High doses of the relaxant, succinilcolina, can cause respiratory and cardiac paralysis, and apparently did so to Zirwas as he sat in a kitchen chair just outside the doorway to his bedroom. After the injection Medina dragged him, dying, onto the bed. At about 2:00 a.m. Medina, this time in the company of his half-brother Alfonso, returned by taxi to Calle Mazón, unlocked the door with Zirwas's keys, and picked up several items they fancied. The whole time they knew there was a woman (Andree Kahl) sleeping in the back room.
Medina later admitted he had persuaded a friend who worked at a hospital to slip him several vials of the relaxant. He and his half-brother also confessed they had used the same technique to attack three other men in the months before they got Zirwas: A Canadian tourist and a Cuban man both died, and an Italian cornered in an elevator managed to escape. All the victims were gay, and the brothers said they had a list of eight more men they intended to kill and rob. Either from incompetence or stupidity, however, their haul after three murders was minimal.