Gay former SF resident killed in Palm Springs

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 27, 2024
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Robert "Bobby" DeTulio. Photo: From Facebook
Robert "Bobby" DeTulio. Photo: From Facebook

A gay former San Francisco resident was killed in Palm Springs late Sunday, March 24, in what investigators said was a case of domestic violence.

The Riverside County Coroner's Bureau confirmed to the Bay Area Reporter on March 27 that Robert "Bobby" DeTulio, 68, had been apparently stabbed when he was discovered by Palm Springs police in the 500 block of Tiki Drive. DeTulio was transported to the hospital, where he later died.

The Desert Sun reported March 25 that Evan Steele, 22, was arrested on suspicion of homicide after a 105-minute search that involved a sheriff's helicopter. Eyewitnesses heard an altercation and saw someone flee before the helicopter was deployed, police stated.

"Eyewitnesses, including a vigilant neighbor, reported hearing an altercation and observing the suspect fleeing from the premises," according to a statement. "Based on this information, PSPD officers, in collaboration with Riverside Sheriff's Office Star 9, combed the vicinity for the suspect."

Steele pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder, burglary, and a sentence-enhancing charge of using a weapon in the commission of a felony, according to KMIR-TV. His next hearing is April 8.

The Desert Sun reported that the two men are believed to have been romantically involved. Steele is being held without bail in Riverside County Jail in Indio.

The Riverside County District Attorney's and Public Defender's offices did not return requests for comment for this report.

Lisa Middleton, a transgender woman who's a member of the Palm Springs City Council and served as mayor from 2021-2022, stated that she did not know DeTulio.

"The mobile home park where he was killed is in my district," stated Middleton, who is running for a state Senate seat in November. "It is a lovely park with many wonderful people. They have held a vigil for the park residents. The population of the park is significantly LGBTQ.

"This is a very tragic, terrible death. I do not want to speculate on what went wrong," she added.

Marc Huestis, a gay filmmaker and former San Francisco resident who now lives in Palm Springs, told the B.A.R. that he knew DeTulio from their time in San Francisco. DeTulio moved to Palm Springs in January 2023, to be part of the "community here of SF expats," Huestis said.

"He was very beloved in the San Francisco community as well as here," Huestis said, adding that DeTulio had been a caterer.

"I've known him since the 1980s," Huestis said. "He loved to cook, and it was more than cooking. He put his heart and soul into all he did. ... I'll forever remember him that way."

Huestis said that DeTulio made a cameo appearance in "Chuck Solomon: Coming Of Age," a 1986 film about a gay San Francisco theater director who died of complications from AIDS that year.

"It was one of the first documentaries that dealt with the community's response to AIDS that wasn't grim," Huestis said. "Throughout the years, his cousin Donna and I worked together for a number of years. He was Italian from the East Coast, and she was very Italian too, so he'd come and they'd goof it up — very East Coast Italian."

Huestis said he saw DeTulio at a film premiere recently and that he brought Steele.

Anyone with information is asked to call Palm Springs Police Department Detective Michael Delgado at (760) 323-8145.

Updated, 3/27/234: This article has been updated with comments from Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton.

Updated, 3/28/24 This article has been updated to add that the suspect has entered a not guilty plea.

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