Vigils planned across Texas for murdered Houston lesbian couple

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Four vigils are scheduled throughout Texas on Wednesday night to remember the lives of a Houston lesbian couple killed earlier this month.

Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found in a trash bin near Port Bolivar on March 7. They’d been a couple for two years.

Cosby’s father, James Larry Cosby, was arrested for tampering with evidence in the case. He remains a suspect in the women’s’ deaths. Cosby’s mother told Houston media outlets over the weekend that her daughter’s father was upset she was gay, and she believed he killed them because of their sexual orientation.

Galveston detectives are still searching for a man who police believe was last seen with the women and information about the couple’s Kia Sorrento that was stolen. A $150 reward for information has been raised through a fund Dallas GetEQUAL TX activist C.d. Kirven started.

“We want to celebrate the way Britney and Crystal lived and not the way they died. They were a part of a community, an LGBT family that mourns their loss,” Kirven said about the vigils in a statement.

She said the Galveston vigil was canceled, and a Fort Wirth vigil  was added, along with vigils in Dallas, Austin and Corpus Christi.

Tiffani Bishop, co-state lead organizer for GetEQUAL TX said, “The tragic murders of Britney and Crystal are truly heartbreaking. To discover that Britney’s father is suspected of committing these crimes is difficult to wrap my head around. It is beyond time that our community begin an open and honest dialogue about violence against queer women of color.”

People attending vigils or who want to show support for the women’s memory are asked to wear yellow in the memory of Cosby and Jackson.

Other vigils are still being solidified, including one for Williamson County. GetEQUAL TX will update vigil information on its Facebook page.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477 or Galveston County Crime Stoppers 409-763-8477.

Locations of the Texas vigils are below.

—  Anna Waugh

Equality Texas calls on police, public to help solve lesbian couple’s death

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A sketch of the man who police believe was the last person to be seen with the women.

Statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality Texas is calling on the Department of Justice and local police to solve the deaths of a lesbian couple found dead in Port Bolivar over the weekend.

Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson, both 24, were found Friday morning near the trash bin of a convenience store. Police have since released a sketch of the man who was last seen with the women.

Police believe the women were killed somewhere else before being moved to the trash bin. They were in Galveston County last week celebrating Mardi Gras before family members lost contact with them. Autopsy reports this week revealed that Cosby died of blunt force trauma and Jackson was shot to death.

“Equality Texas is deeply saddened by this murder, and our hearts and prayers are with Ms. Cosby’s and Ms. Jackson’s family and friends during this difficult time,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said in a statement. “For many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community this is a stark reminder that nearly a third of Texas’ hate crimes are motivated by bias against sexual orientation.  A report issued last year by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that 73.1 percent of all anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were people of color.

“I have faith that the Galveston County Sheriff’s department is working hard to bring closure to this senseless tragedy and will work with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Department of Justice to fully investigate,” Smith added.

GetEQUAL TX activist Cd Kirven has set up a reward fund to encourage people to come forward with information. All money collected will go to Galveston County Crime Stoppers. Donations can be online here or checks and money orders can be mailed to Captain Cook with the Galveston County Crime Stoppers at 601 54th St. Galveston, TX 77551.

Investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying the man in the sketch and locating the couple’s silver 2006 Kia Sorrento with paper tags. Anyone with information about the case should contact the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477.

—  Anna Waugh

Houston lesbian couple killed over weekend in Galveston County

Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby

Crystal Jackson and Britney Cosby

Questions still remain after a lesbian couple was found near a store dumpster in Port Bolivar in Galveston County early Friday.

Crystal Jackson and her girlfriend, Britney Cosby, both 24, were found killed near a convenience store dumpster off State Highway 87 when a beer salesman noticed their bodies. The cause of the death hasn’t been determined.

Police released a sketch overnight of the man who was last seen with the women. He’s described as a black male with an average build, standing between 5 feet, 11 inches and 7 feet tall. He’s in his late 20s or early 30s.

Family members told Houston’s KTRK that Jackson was a mother to a 5-year-old girl. The couple had been together for two years.

The women were in Galveston last week for Mardi Gras and the two were last in contact with family on Wednesday. Police believe it’s possible the women were killed somewhere else before their bodies were moved.

Investigators are looking for Cosby’s missing vehicle, a silver 2006 Kia Sorrento with paper tags.

Anyone with information about the case should call the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 866-248-8477 or Galveston County Crime Stoppers 409-763-8477.

Houstonsketch

A sketch of the man who police believe was the last person to be seen with the women.

Watch KTRK’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh

After 2 months, no suspects but some details in Denton trans murder

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Artegus Madden

Some details of the Artegus Madden murder have been revealed to The Dallas Morning News while the Denton County’s Sheriff’s Department continues to refuse to speak to Dallas Voice or the LGBT community about the case.

The Morning News ran a salacious story about the Madden murder over the weekend. While Denton County investigators have refused to return calls from Dallas Voice, Dallas Morning News apparently saw our story because two months after the murder, they’re suddenly interested. To their credit, the newspaper was able to get certain facts and even an appeal for information.

Madden met someone on the Internet the night of her death. There was no sign of breaking and entering and unnamed items were missing from her home.

So the main suspect is likely the person she met online. But investigators apparently don’t know who that person is.

“The problem with this case is that there are so many unknowns,” Denton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Kish told the Morning News. “We’re just going back and redoing everything to make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

One of the unknowns is why the sheriff’s department refused to talk to the LGBT community to ask for help in solving the case.

“It’s a very complicated case, and the transgender part is a very important part of this case because it is what it is,” the Morning News quotes Kish awkwardly saying.

Or maybe not so awkward. It’s a murder. If she picked up someone online, there’s history in her computer or phone. Trace it.

Two months after the murder, we have a new contact for anyone with information. People can contact investigator Donn Britt in the Denton County Sheriff’s Office at 940-349-1667.

—  David Taffet

Denton County authorities investigating murder of transgender woman

MaddenThe Denton County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of transgender woman Artegus Konyale Madden.

Madden, 34, who went by Konyale Madden on Facebook, was found dead in her home on Hayden Lane in Savannah Estates by friends on Sunday, Sept. 1, Sgt. Larry Kish told the Denton Record-Chronicle. Savannah is a small town east of Denton.

Officials thought Madden had been dead since Friday night or  Saturday morning and are investigating her death as a homicide.

Investigators said they initially believed the body to be a female, but did not elaborate on Madden’s identity.

Calls to Kish were not immediately returned.

Jermone Antonio Jones, a longtime friend of Madden’s, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that Madden identified as female growing up.

“As a child, he [Artegus] considered himself as a female and all through school,” Jones said. “He was the life of the party. If you had a party, you would want Artegus there.”

The two grew up together in Longview, where Madden attended high school.

The preliminary cause of death hasn’t been revealed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which covers Denton County.

The investigation is still ongoing and no arrests have been made. People with information leading to the death should contact Sgt. Kish at 940-349-1665.

Madden’s funeral was Sept. 7 in Longview, according to her obituary. Her family requested donations be made in her name to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in lieu of flowers.

—  Anna Waugh

Police have yet to identify gay man found brutally murdered in Carrollton


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Police are not releasing the identity of a 22-year-old gay man found murdered in his home in Carrollton on Friday.

Officer Jon Stovall confirmed the death is under investigation as murder. Stovall said Monday morning he didn’t know whether the victim had been positively identified or, if so, whether the family had been notified.

The victim’s body was discovered by his housemate, Tony Adams, at the residence they shared in the 2100 block of Placid Drive. Adams is active in Dallas theater and did sound and lighting for the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, a predominantly gay congregation. Adams discovered the body when he came home from work.

Part of the confusion about the victim’s identity may be related to the fact that he acted under a stage name that he sometimes went by off stage as well.

Both Adams and the victim attended MCC of Greater Dallas. The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, pastor of MCC of Greater Dallas, said there was blood everywhere in the house.

“Evidently it was a brutal beating,” Darraugh said, adding that she thinks knives may have been involved.

In an email to her congregation Darraugh identified the victim only as “Shawn” and requested help “to assist Tony [Adams] with the expenses associated with the crime scene clean-up and replacement of clothing and home furnishings that were damaged or destroyed.”

Read the full email below.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Dallas man arrested for murder of transgender partner

Jonathan Stuart Kenney

Dallas police arrested a man yesterday for the murder of his life partner, but Dallas Voice has learned that his partner was transgender.

Police documents listed Jonathan Stuart Kenney as the main suspect in the murder of Jesus Tovar, who was listed as male and referred to as Kenney’s life partner.

Emails to Dallas Voice this morning revealed that Tovar was transgender and had been known to family and friends as Janette for a least a decade and a half.

Detective Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, said police had no way to know Tovar was transgender because police issue legal documents based on the person’s legal name, such as the arrest affidavit for Kenney that listed Tovar’s legal instead of preferred name.

Martin also said the death was ruled a homicide and treated as one so mentioning Tovar was transgender was not necessarily relevant to the crime, but would have been helpful to inform people who knew her of her passing.

In an email sent to Dallas Voice, Tovar was described as “truly an amazing person, and her passing has left a giant hole in many hearts.”

Kenney posted about Janette on his Facebook page on Wednesday:

“I love you my baby Janette, your my love my everything and I will miss you so much. Your the best thing that ever happened to me girl kisses!!!!!! I hope you can see me down here even though I can’t see you I feel your spirit still living in me. Rest in peace mi amor mi vida.”

Police confirmed Kenney was in custody Thursday morning.

—  Anna Waugh

Police arrest 26-year-old Dallas man in murder of ‘life partner’ in N. Oak Cliff

Jonathan Kenney

UPDATE: See update here.

Dallas police have arrested a North Oak Cliff man suspected of killing his “life partner” on Monday.

Jonathan Stuart Kenney, 26, was arrested Thursday after the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of 43-year-old Jesus Tovar, Kenney’s partner, a homicide. Dallas Voice subsequently learned that Tovar was a transgender woman who went by Janette.

According to an arrest affidavit, an investigation into Tovar’s death revealed that Kenney, who is listed as Tovar’s life partner, slammed Tovar’s head into the concrete in the 830 block of West Davis Street at 6:20 a.m. Monday. Kenney then continued to assault Tovar when they returned home to 918 W. 8th St.

Police then responded to a 911 call at about 4:20 p.m. at the couple’s residence. The initial police report states that a man called 911 around 4 p.m. Monday after finding Tovar “not breathing and unresponsive.” Dallas Fire-Rescue and homicide detectives responded to the scene.

The arrest affidavit states that Kenney did not tell police he and Tovar had a fight before he found Tovar. The apartment manager told police the couple were fighting between 8 and 9 a.m. and that he heard Tovar tell Kenney to “Get off me!” The manager told police he lives directly below the couple and banged on the ceiling to get them to stop fighting. He told police they “are always fighting and arguing.”

Kenney provided a taped statement to police Monday night, admitting that he slammed Tovar’s head into the concrete at Tyler and Davis streets and that he continued to assault her after they arrived home at their apartment.

After the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy, Tovar’s death was ruled a homicide Tuesday with the cause of death listed as blunt force trauma to the head, the affidavit states.

An arrest warrant was issued for Kenney on Wednesday. Police confirmed that he was in custody on Thursday morning.

—  Anna Waugh

Ellis County murder victim identified; arrest made

Sketch of murder victim

Lt. Rick White of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department said the body of a woman found shot has been identified — and she was not a member of the LGBT community. An arrest has been made in the case.

After the body was found, several clues led investigators to ask the LGBT community for help in identifying the woman. No missing persons report from the area matched the body.

White said that the woman has been identified as 19-year-old Sonya Ballinger of Irving. Thaddeus Terrence Quinn, 38, was arrested on suspicion of murder, after being picked up on a warrant for another offense.

White said Ballinger had been living with her mother until June and had been staying with her boyfriend in Irving.

White said her boyfriend wanted to report her missing on July 17, the day investigators think she was killed. Ballinger’s mother decided not to report her daughter missing, however, because she apparently had disappeared for periods of time in the past.

Quinn’s body was found on July 23 in a wooded area between Waxahachie and Midlothian about 6 miles south of the Dallas County line.

—  David Taffet

Ellis County Sheriff asking for help identifying dead woman

Ellis County Sheriff investigator Joe Fitzgerald is asking the LGBT community in Dallas for help in identifying a body found in a heavily wooded area in the county.

She is approximately 5 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing about 115 pounds. She is believed to be of African-American heritage. She was wearing a black or dark gray tank top, blue jean shorts and white Nike tennis shoes with purple shoe laces.

Fitzgerald said information connected her to Dallas and Irving and possibly to the LGBT community.

Trauma indicates the murder did not occur there.

“Someone killed her and threw her to the side of the road,” he said.

Investigators believe she disappeared on July 17. She made some purchases in Irving on that day. The body was found on July 23 and she may have been dead for five days and was badly decomposed. The sheriff’s office released a sketch of what she may have looked like when alive (above) and pictures of tattoos and identifying marks (below).

What bothers investigators is that there have been no reports of a missing person matching the description of the woman found. Anyone with information about her identity should contact Joe Fitzgerald in the Ellis County Sheriff’s office at 972-825-4928.

—  David Taffet