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2 gay men brutally beaten in Oakland Park near Fort Lauderdale

BY DAVID SMILEY, dsmiley@MiamiHerald.com

The Broward Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the brutal beatings of two gay men in Oakland Park earlier this week.

cohenDavid Villanova Jr., 27, and Craig Cohen, 47, were beaten in separate attacks early Monday morning by the same group of men, according to BSO spokeswoman Dani Moschella.

Cohen, of Oakland Park, at right, remains unconscious at Broward General Medical Center. Villanova Jr., of Pompano Beach, suffered a skull fracture but was awake Wednesday afternoon and speaking with detectives.

Moschella said Wednesday that the same group of robbers attacked both men at separate times.

Moschella said detectives are treating the two attacks as robberies, but have not ruled out the possibility that the beatings were hate crimes.

''They were two brutal attacks but right now the only motive we know definitely is robbery,'' she said.

According to Moschella, Cohen was walking in the 800 block of East Oakland Park Boulevard, near the Peter Pan Diner, when he was beaten and robbed. A passerby found him on the ground and called 911 about 1:20 a.m., she said.

On Wednesday, friends gathered at the hospital to show support for Cohen, a Broward School District employee since 1982.

''The doctors said we need to wait 48 hours, but 48 hours are over and his condition has not improved,'' said longtime friend Hector Varas. ``But I believe in miracles.''

Varas said Cohen is a regular customer at the Peter Pan Diner, where investigators believe he ate a meal shortly before he was attacked.

Detectives remain unsure as to the specifics in Villanova's attack, though they believe he was robbed some time after Cohen.

He initially told investigators that he was attacked in the 1500 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale near a 7-Eleven store, said Fort Lauderdale police spokeswoman Detective Kathy Collins.

sketchHowever, his story has changed somewhat, and Fort Lauderdale detectives believe he was actually attacked outside their jurisdiction.

Moschella said BSO investigators are now handling Villanova's beating as if it happened in their jurisdiction.

Investigators have released a sketch, right, of one man, whose description was given by a witness, Moschella said.

Miami Herald staff writer Diana Moskovitz contributed to this report.


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