One week after he was hospitalized with severe burns which led to the amputation of both arms, a North Carolina veteran of the U.S. Army died on Saturday afternoon. Stephen Patrick White died from injuries sustained in a brutal hotel room attack at the hands of a stranger he met in a gay bar last Sunday. White, 46, passed away in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, had originally been charged with aggravated assault with intent to kill for the attack on White. Due to White’s passing, the charges have been upgraded to first-degree murder, according to Susan Danielson, spokeswoman for the Greensboro police. Gupton is an employee with the Water Resources Department in the city of Greensboro, North Carolina.
White and Gupton were seen leaving the Chemistry Nightclub in Greensboro together by bartender Jim Olive. Olive recalls the two leaving in a cab sometime near closing time on Nov. 9. Later that morning, at approximately 4:30 a.m., police received a 911 call regarding a screaming man at the Battleground Inn. The fire alarm went off at about that time.
Gupton was arrested at the scene and the hotel was evacuated. White was discovered by firefighters unconscious with severe burns in a room on the fourth floor. Assistant District Attorney of Guilford County, North Carolina, Howard Newman, said this week that officials believe Gupton hit White with a television, a telephone and a small furniture item before setting him on fire.
Danielson dismissed any suggestion that the attack may have been motivated by White’s sexuality. She has said that the encounter was consensual, but at some point during the night, Gupton became “incredibly irrational.” A bartender at the nightclub, Robert Porter, had spoken with Gupton prior to the night of the attack. Gupton told Porter that although he had homosexual encounters with men since the age of 19, it took over a month for him to have the courage to come into the bar, frequented by homosexuals.
Gupton’s public defender, Wayne T. Baucino, met with Gupton on Friday for an initial visit. He would make no comments on the case. Gupton did not enter a plea to the assault charge before the death of White, and in light of the newly-filed murder charge, his bond of $250,000 was revoked. He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 10.
Alex Teal has been White’s partner since 2009. Although the two men continued to live together in North Carolina, Teal said they decided this summer “to take a break.” On the day of the attack, Teal and White had agreed to give their romantic relationship another try, making that night the “last night of freedom” for White.
Teal said that after White was admitted in critical condition with over 50 percent of his body covered in burns, he had shown signs of improvement, and that on Friday White was eating, drinking and doing well. “Everything was fine Friday,” said Teal, but early Saturday morning, White’s condition declined and he was placed on a ventilator to assist him with breathing. He died at approximately 3 p.m.
According to Teal, White was in the Army during the late 80s, after which time he worked for the Federal Air Marshal Service and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In 2005, while working in Iraq as a security contractor, he was severely injured in an explosion.
Two fundraisers for White were scheduled for Saturday night. Initially scheduled to raise funds for White’s care, organizers will now give the proceeds to his family. Meanwhile, Gupton remains in the North Carolina jail – the only man who truly knows why he attacked White so brutally in the hotel room to which they had gone together, and ultimately causing his death.
By Jennifer Pfalz