In January 1990, two Staten Island men, Michael Taylor and Philip Sarlo, brutally murdered Jimmy Zappalorti – not for money, not for revenge, but out of prejudice and hatred: Jimmy was a gay man. Beaten. Stabbed. His body thrown in the Arthur Kill to hide the crime. But Jimmy was found – and
humanity rallied around the inhumanity. Taylor and Sarlo tried to silence Jimmy for being gay – but they only succeeded in giving a voice to change. Jimmy's killing fanned a firestorm of outrage among citizens groups, politicians and the LGBT community that led to the signing on July 10, 2000, of The New York State Hate Crimes Bill – the first of its kind in the state.
Stained Glass Windows chronicles Jimmy’s life, death and its aftermath, from his youth in a loving, fiercely religious family, through his recognition of his homosexuality in the US Navy and the subsequent heinous physical assault on him and his partner, and shipmate, in Vietnam. After being medically discharged, Jimmy returned home bearing his invisible physical and psychological scars – and the ongoing conflict between his homosexuality and his Catholic parents and upbringing would pick at those never-healing wounds. But for all of his struggles, for the rest of his all-too-brief life, Jimmy was known as a peaceful, loving man who simply wanted to “be” – to live in his “beach house” by the Arthur Kill, spend time with friends and family, and play the piano. And it is this that makes the timing of the publication of Stained Glass Windows even more crucial.
In October 2014, one of the two men, Michael Taylor, serving prison time for Jimmy’s murder is due for parole – Philip Sarlo died in prison in 1997. Said Mr. Zappalorti, “It is appropriate that one month before he has the chance to be freed from a life sentence that the world should hear the story of the man whose life he callously took – Jimmy Zappalorti – and that of the family he devastated by a son’s and brother’s murder.”
Mr. Zappalorti tells Jimmy’s story in his own voice: that of a brother who was Jimmy’s protector in life and champion after his death, whose efforts continue to keep Jimmy’s legacy alive to help maintain the fight for LGBT rights through the New York City-based, not-for-profit organization The Zappalorti Society. Founded by Robert “Bert” Coffman, it is an active group of LGBT psychiatric survivors organized for peer support, self-help and mental health advocacy.
Robert T. Zappalorti manages an environmental consulting business, Herpetological Associates, Inc., Plant and Wildlife Consultants. He is also an accomplished photographer, writer and actor. Working in his spare time, he wrote three different drafts of this book over a span of fifteen years.