A 19-year-old Calabasas man accused of killing a schoolmate who exposed his homosexuality testified Friday that he considered suicide after his parents confronted him about being a homosexual.
Robert M. Rosenkrantz is on trial before Judge James A. Albracht in Van Nuys Superior Court on charges of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Steven Redman. Rosenkrantz testified that he went to the Agoura Indoor Shooting Range on June 23, 1985, two days after Redman, 17, and Rosenkrantz's brother, Joey, then 16, discovered that he was homosexual and told his parents.
Rosenkrantz said he tried to rent a handgun but was told he could not do so because he was only 18 then. Instead, he was permitted to rent an Uzi semiautomatic rifle.
He said he practiced shooting the gun at a paper target and then, at the last minute, "decided I didn't want to die."
Rosenkrantz said he later purchased an Uzi from a Northridge gun store but intended only to shoot up Redman's car. He also testified that he at various times considered shooting Redman, his brother and himself.
Rosenkrantz is accused of shooting Redman 10 times with an Uzi on a Calabasas street. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder.
Dressed in a dark three-piece suit and tie, Rosenkrantz spoke haltingly but maintained his composure throughout his testimony.
He said he had kept his homosexuality a secret since his early teens, knowing that his parents would not approve.
"I went out with girls to dance places. I went to my senior prom with a girl. I participated in father-son talks or brother-brother talks about girls."
Rosenkrantz said he knew his father disapproved of homosexuality because he made "off-the-wall comments about homosexuals. . . . When AIDS was first diagnosed, he commented that faggots were getting what they deserved."
At the time his homosexuality was revealed by Redman and his brother, Rosenkrantz said, "I felt better than I'd ever felt in my entire life."
After a lifetime of being overweight, he said, he had dieted and gone "from 230 pounds to 149 or 150 pounds. . . . I got all new clothes. . . . It was like I'd just walked into a completely different body. . . . I felt like I had my whole life in front of me, a job, college, friends, a new body, new status and summer vacation."
He said he had no idea his brother and Redman were taping his telephone conversations until the two burst into the Rosenkrantz family's Hermosa Beach oceanfront house on June 21, the night of his high school graduation.
Rosenkrantz said he had asked Joey not to disturb him at the beach house, saying he had a date with a girl. He said he had just stepped into a bedroom with a youth named Michael when the two burst into the beach house, yelling, "You . . . faggots. Get out of this house. . . . We're going to kick your ass."
"I thought we were being robbed. I didn't know what was going on. . . . I was just confused. I couldn't grasp exactly what was happening. I thought there were intruders," he testified.
During the fight that ensued, Redman broke Robert's nose and Robert shocked Joey repeatedly in the face with an electric stun gun, he said.
Rosenkrantz said he asked the two boys, "What did you do this for? What did I ever do to you that you'd do this?"
Rosenkrantz said he was fearful that his parents would learn of his homosexuality.
"I was nauseous; I was shaking. I was sick because of everything that had happened."
The next day, Rosenkrantz said, his father broke into tears while confronting him with the allegations that he had heard from the two boys that Robert was a homosexual.
Rosenkrantz said he insisted he was a heterosexual. "I brought a picture of me with my prom date and said, 'Does that look gay?' " he testified. 'I told him he would get his first grandchild from me . . . a lot of macho things."
Rosenkrantz said he persuaded his brother to retract his story by imploring him to "to keep the family together" and by threatening to destroy Joey's car.
Saturday night, however, he said, his father began questioning him about the allegations again.
"He didn't believe me. Neither did my mom. She kept telling me, 'You have to tell me the truth.' "
Rosenkrantz said he packed his belongings in trash bags, left home and began living in his car.
Five nights later, Rosenkrantz said, he called Redman at home, hoping to persuade him to change his story, but he said Redman hung up on him.
"I decided that the only way to actually talk to him was to confront him somewhere," he said. Rosenkrantz said he slept in his car in the parking lot of Redman's mother's condominium because he did not know in which unit Redman lived.
The next day, he said, he used his car to block Redman's car as he left the condominium complex. He said he and Redman got out of their cars and Redman called him a "faggot."
"I was holding the gun against my chest. He reached out and touched it, and I kind of let him do it, and then I pushed him back. I said, 'Come back to my house with me and take back what you said.'
"He said, 'I'm not going anywhere with you, you faggot.' . . . Then I shot him."