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Rapist wants Oklahoma Corrections Department to pay for female hormones

A convicted rapist who claims he should have been born a woman wants the state Corrections Department to pay for laser hair removal, hormones and counseling so he can complete the transition from male to female.
by Andrew Knittle Published: February 15, 2013

/articleid/3755617/1/pictures/1954452">Photo - Ronny Edward Darnell Shown in 2007.
Ronny Edward Darnell Shown in 2007.

Massie, who said he was unable to contact the department's chief medical officer on Thursday, would not comment on whether Darnell was receiving any kind of treatment related to gender identity disorder before becoming a state inmate.

Inmate was a transient

Darnell's past is hard to pin down.

When he was brought back to Oklahoma to face sodomy and rape charges in early 2005, it was through a stroke of good fortune.

The inmate's DNA had been matched using a nationwide database, prompting the Ohio Attorney General's office to call Kay County prosecutors in late 2004.

Former Kay County District Attorney Mark Gibson, now a prosecutor in Garvin County, described Darnell as a drifter who abducted a 13-year-old Newkirk girl on March 17, 1997.

Court records show that Darnell tricked the girl into his car by asking for directions. Once the girl was under his control, the convict drove the teenager to four different locations, in rural areas, and raped the girl three separate times.

“I remember we had some suspects at the time,” Gibson said in 2005. “But as we started to weed through them, we started to realize we were probably dealing with some transient traveler who would be impossible to find.”

The girl reported the crime and investigators collected biological evidence, which would sit in storage until the call came from authorities in Ohio — nearly a decade later.

Darnell pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and one count of forcible sodomy in December 2005, drawing a 50-year prison sentence.

At the time, Gibson said the effect on Newkirk, a small town of about 2,300 people in northwestern Oklahoma, was palpable.

“That truly was the death of innocence for a small town,” Gibson told The Oklahoman in 2005. “And that's a shame. In a small town, no one expects to have to lock their doors or live without trust.”

When contacted on Thursday, Gibson said, as he recalls it, Darnell wasn't receiving hormone therapy nor did he claim to be afflicted with gender identity disorder.

“I can tell you without question … that never came up,” the prosecutor said. “I would remember that. It sounds totally bogus.”

Other states provide treatment

Whether Darnell was receiving treatment before entering prison may not matter — if the court looks to rulings in similar cases.

In July 2007, a federal judge in Idaho ordered the state to provide hormone therapy to a male inmate who described himself as a woman trapped in a man's body.

Jennifer Spencer, who entered prison in 2000 as Randall Gammett, legally changed her name after she was already behind bars.

It wasn't until 2003 that Spencer sought treatment from the Idaho prison system, although state doctors claimed she wasn't afflicted with gender identity disorder and didn't need the hormones.

In April 2010, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a state law that prohibited the use of taxpayer money to pay for inmates' hormone therapy. The decision was upheld a little over a year by a federal appeals court judge.

More recently, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered the state's prison system to pay for gender reassignment operation for convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek, a decision the state has appealed.

It is thought to be the first time a judge has ordered the surgery as a remedy to gender identity disorder.

Kosilek was born a man but has been taking female hormones and living as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek was convicted of the 1990 killing of the woman she wed while living as a man.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf said the surgery, which can cost up to $20,000, is the only way to treat the inmate's “serious medical need.”

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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