1st trans murder of 2016 reported in Austin

Monica Loera

Monica Loera

JonCasey William Rowell, 29, has been charged with first degree murder and is being held in Travis County Jail on a $250,000 bond, in connection with the Jan. 22 shooting death of Monica Loera, a 43-year-old Austin trans woman, according to reports posted yesterday (Friday, Jan. 29) by Monica Roberts on her TransGriot blog.

This is the first reported murder of a transgender person in 2016, Roberts said. She also noted that the most in the LGBT community were unaware of Loera’s murder for about a week because Austin-area media misgendered her in their reports.

Pink News, a LGBT news outlet in the United Kingdom, reported that several Austin-area media outlets “reported a police plea for information which identified the victim as ‘David Loera’ and circulated an old pre-transition driver’s license photo.”

In an article in the Austin Chronicle, writer Nina Hernandez took other media to task for their callous treatment of Loera’s murder, noting that “the wild curls and wide grins from her Facebook page — and above all else, her chosen name — have been omitted to a staggering degree. Instead Loera has been described using her birth name and masculine pronouns.”

There has been, Hernandez continued, “no public acknowledgement of her death or the [transgender] community that has been further traumatized in its wake. And that’s wrong.”

Witnesses told police Loera was “engaged in conversation” with a man in front of her home in north Austin when the man shot her. Witnesses’ description of the shooter and messages he allegedly left on Loera’s phone led police to Rowell.

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JonCasey William Rowell

At least 21 transgender women, nearly all of them trans women of color, were murdered in 2015, including two in Texas: Ty Underwood, killed in January 2015 in Tyler, and Ms. Shade, found dead in a field in Dallas in July. Activists agree that the number of victims is likely much higher since many transgender victims are misgendered by police and the media, as was initially the case with Loera.

Roberts pledged that she will be “watching this case until our sister receives justice” and to update her readers as she gets new information.

“Rest in power and peace, Monica,” Roberts wrote on her blog. “Your trans family and all who loved you will not rest until justice is served.”

—  Tammye Nash

Convicted gay-bashing killer Jon Buice released on parole

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Jon Buice

File this under “Things That Slipped By Us”:

Jon Buice, who pleaded guilty in 1992 to murdering a Houston gay man, was released from prison on Dec. 30 after serving 23 years of his 45-year sentence.

Buice was 17 on July 4, 1991, when he and nine other youths from The Woodlands, a suburb north of Houston, drove to the Montrose area, Houston’s gayborhood, where they attacked three gay men leaving a nightclub. Two of the men managed to get away from the gang of young men wielding knives, pipes and nail-studded boards.

But Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old banker, was beaten to death. His death sparked outrage in the LGBT community statewide, and publicity surrounding the brutal murder helped prod the Texas Legislature to pass a law that mirrored the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act. That law called for local and state law enforcement agencies to collect data on hate crimes, and was Texas’ first step toward a comprehensive hate crimes law.

ABC 13 Eyewitness News in Houston, in reporting on Buice’s parole, talked to Ray Hill, the Houston activist who led efforts to make sure Broussard’s murder was investigated as a hate crime and led marches and protests, pressing prosecutors for stiffer punishments. Hill later changed his mind, deciding that it wasn’t a hate crime, but just a case of drunken teens getting in a fight. He has since led the push to get Buice released on parole.

“I was the second person [Buice] hugged when he walked out of the door today,” Hill told ABC 13 the day Buice was released. “He hugged his father then he grabbed on me and was a little longer holding on to me.”

Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, had fought diligently over the last 23 years to keep Buice in prison. In August 2011, the parole board reversed an earlier decision to release Buice on parole then after they were given “new information.” Rodriguez, who had traveled to Texas from her home in Georgia each time Buice was up for parole, said in 2011 that Buice had never shown remorse for killing her son, and that she did not feel like he had changed. “I am concerned [Buice] will go out and do something else to someone else,” she said at the time.

Under the terms of his parole, Buice will have to wear ankle monitor, avoid contact with the victim’s family and get permission from his parole officer if he ever wants to return to Harris County.

—  Tammye Nash

Trans woman murdered in Philadelphia, brings 2015 trans murder tally to 21

Keisha Jenkins

Keisha Jenkins

Twenty-two-year-old Keisha Jenkins was shot to death on a Philadelphia street early Tuesday morning, Oct. 6, becoming the second trans woman murdered in the City of Brotherly Love and the 21st trans woman murdered in the U.S. this year.

Philadelphia Gay News reports that police said Jenkins got out of a car in a park at 13th and Wingohocking streets around 2:30 a.m., and was attacked a few minutes later by a group of five or six men. One of the men pulled a gun and shot Jenkins twice in the back. She was transported to Einstein Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.

PGN reports that police say it appears Jenkins was deliberately targeted, but there are no suspects yet, and no motive has been established. The investigation is ongoing.

Another Philadelphia trans woman, Londyn Chanel, was stabbed and killed by her roommate in Philadelphia earlier this year, and at least 18 other trans women — including two in Texas — have been murdered this year.

Here is a list of the other trans women killed this year — or whose bodies were found this year. For more information on each, visit Fusion.net:

Papi Edwards, 20, murdered Jan. 9 in Louisville, Ky.

Lamia Beard, 30, murdered Jan. 17 in Norfolk, Va.

Ty “Nunee” Underwood, ,murdered Jan. 26. in Tyler, Texas

Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, murdered Jan. 31 in Los Angeles

Taja Gabrielle de Jesus, 36. murdered Feb. 1 in San Francisco

Penny Proud, 22, murdered Feb. 10 in New Orleans

Bri Golec, 22, murdered Feb. 13 in Akron, Ohio

Kristina Gomex Reinwald, 46, murdered Feb. 15 in Miami-Dade, Fla.

Keyshia Blige, 33, murdered March 7 in Aurora, Ill.

Mya Shawatza Hall, 27, killed March 30 in Fort Meade, Md.

London Kiki Chanel, 21, murdered May 18 in Philadelphia

Mercedes Williamson, 17, murdered between May 30 and June 1 in George County, Mississippi

Ashton O’Hara, 25, murdered July 14 in Detroit

India Clarke, 25, murdered July 21 in Tampa, Fla.

K.C. Haggard, 66, murdered July 23 in Fresno, Calif.

Shade Schuler, 22, murdered and her body found July 29 in Dallas

Amber MonRoe, 20, murdered Aug. 8 in Detroit

Kandis Capri, 35, murdered Aug. 11 in Phoenix

Elisha Walker, 20, missing since Oct. 23, 2014, remains found Aug. 15 in Johnston County, N.C.

Tamara Dominguez, 36, murdered Aug. 15 in Kansas City, Missouri

—  Tammye Nash

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Facing Evil’ series features Texas drag queen convicted of murder

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Brandi West, left, and Cliff Youens with Patrice LeBlanc, right.

Anybody out there remember Brandi West? Back in the 1980s, she was a well-known and popular drag queen here in Texas. She lived, I think, in Houston, or near Houston.

Anyway, Brandi West’s real name was John Clifford “Cliff” Youens who in 1986, at the age of 32, shared a home with a young woman named Patrice LeBlanc from Louisiana. She was 20. Then in March of 1986, Partice’s body was found, wrapped in a comforter and chained to a pair of cinder blocks, in Lake Livingston in San Jacinto County, according to UPI reports at the time. She had been stabbed 39 times.

And Brandi/Cliff was on the run. Until June, when he was arrested in his mother’s home in Houston after running from Houston to Beaumont to Baton Rouge, through Alabama, Georgia and South Caroline to New York, before winding up back in Houston.

The case went to trial in September that year, and Youens was convicted and sent to prison for life. Today he is imprisoned in the Michael Unit of the Texas Prisons in Tennessee Colony, in Anderson County, just northwest of Palestine.

There’s been more than one book written about the case, including true-crime writer Kathryn Casey’s The Drag Queen Murder.

You are probably wondering why I am bringing up such ancient history. Well, that’s because Cliff/Brandi will be featured in tonight’s (Friday, June 12) episode of “Facing Evil with Candice DeLong” on the Investigation Discovery Channel. It airs at 9 p.m. CST. And if the video clip from the show available on the Investigation Discovery website is any indication, it could be an interesting show.

Back in the day, news reports referred to Patrice as Brandi/Cliff’s “roommate,” and said police believed Cliff killed Patrice when she rejected his romantic advances. This brief snippet of Candice Delong’s interview, however, seems to suggest that the two had a very intimate relationship and it implies, at least, that Cliff — who has previously refused to admit that he killed Patrice — confesses to the murder to Candice.

I didn’t know Brandi West. Or Cliff Youens. Or Patrice LeBlanc. I do believe I vaguely remember seeing Brandi perform, way back in the day. And I certainly remember hearing all about the lurid case. So I am gonna watch tonight’s episode of “Facing Evil,” or least DVR it to watch later. Because it is, after all, a part of LGBT history in Texas.

—  Tammye Nash

Tyler media wrong about Ty Underwood’s gender

Ty-Underwood

Ty Underwood

Years and years ago, when Nicholas West was abducted from a park in Tyler and murdered, I was surprised and pleased at the way Tyler law enforcement responded. Donald Aldritch — one of the men convicted of West’s murder who has since been executed for that crime — bragged about his part in the murder, even to police. After all, Nicholas West was just a faggot; who was going to care that he had been killed?

But instead, law enforcement and prosecutors in Tyler and Smith County took it very seriously indeed. They arrested three men — Aldritch, Henry Dunn and David McMillan — and tried and convicted all three. Aldritch and Dunn were sentenced to death and have since been executed. McMillan was sentenced to life in prison.

Last month, when we heard the tragic news about the murder of trans woman Ty Underwood, I was glad to see that once again Tyler Police showed they were making every effort to find her killer. In a world where the murder of trans women, especially trans women of color, happens frequently and too often is more or less ignored by law enforcement, seeing the Tyler PD’s diligence was a welcome change. Today they announced that Carlton Ray Champion has been arrested and charged with Underwood’s murder.

I can’t say the same, though, of Tyler media: Both the Tyler Morning Telegraph and KLTV television station have ignored the fact that Ty Underwood was a transgender woman and have instead referred to her as a man in their coverage of the murder.

KLTV’s online post today about Champion’s arrest totally avoided mentioning Underwood’s gender all together. But an earlier post about her death had an headline referring to Underwood as “he” and in the lead paragraph called her “a Tyler man.” One person quoted in the story, identified only as a friend of Underwood’s named Antonio, used male pronouns in referring to the dead woman. Another friend, Kenya Darks, used female pronouns. But the TV station used male pronouns, as did the Tyler police officer quoted in the story.

Where the TV station may have learned from its early mistakes, the Morning Telegraph continues to refer to Underwood as a man and using her pre-transition male name. The newspaper also seems to be trying to sensationalize the case with a headline referring to the “sexual connotations” of the relationship between Underwood and her killer (police have said the two appeared to have dated for a brief time).

What better proof that, despite the many advances in LGBT rights, we still have so many battles left to fight. And once again it looks like the ones with the biggest battles to fight are our trans brothers and sisters. And just like the LGB parts of our community couldn’t have gotten where we are without allies, the transgender community needs each and every one of us to be an ally for them.

With that in mind, here is the contact info for KLTV, and here is the contact info for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Take a moment to let them know what you think of their coverage of Ty Underwood’s murder.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING NEWS: Longview man arrested in Ty Underwood murder

Ray Champion Jr.

Carlton Ray Champion Jr.

Carlton Ray Champion Jr., 21, of Longview has been charged with murder in the Jan. 26 death of Tyler trans woman Ty Underwood, according to KLTV television station in Tyler.

Champion was already being held without bond in the Gregg County Jail, after being arrested by Tyler police on Jan. 29 on a probation violation charge. Tyler police informed the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office that Champion was also wanted on first degree murder charges, after which a warrant was signed and bond on the murder charge was set at $1 million.

KLTV TV station reports that Tyler police investigating Underwood’s shooting death that she and Champion had been in a brief relationship. Electronic and video evidence uncovered by investigators indicate that Champion was supposed to have met Underwood on the date and time when she was murdered.

Police responding to a call about an automobile accident on Jan. 26 found Underwood’s body in her vehicle, which had hit a telephone pole. She had been shot, and police believe that she got in her car to escape her attacker, and then crashed into the telephone pole.

Underwood was one of several trans women who have been murdered since the first of this year. Her death made national headlines, and a memorial vigil was held last Wednesday, Feb. 4, in her honor at Bergfeld Park in Tyler. Police said at that time they were following up on leads in the case and hoped to announce an arrest sometime this week.

—  Tammye Nash

Vigil set in Tyler for murdered trans woman

Ty Underwood Vigil

Local and state LGBT and allied organizations are holding a vigil at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4., at Bergfeld Park in Tyler in honor of Ty “Nunnee” Underwood, the 24-year-old transgender woman murdered Jan. 26 in Tyler.

Some of Underwood’s family members will speak at the rally, along with representatives of some of the organizations hosting the event.

Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Don Martin said this morning (Tuesday, Feb. 3) that police there do have leads they are investigating, but have no new information they can release at this time. “There are some things coming up, and if those things come through, we hope to be able to make an announcement” soon, Martin said.

Underwood’s friends and family have said they believe her murder was an anti-trans hate crime, although police have so far not designated it as such. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Tyler Police Department at 903-531-1000 or Tyler-Smith County Crime Stoppers at 903-597-2833.

Underwood worked at a nursing home, and friends and family members said she planned to go back to school to become a nurse. She died early Monday morning, Jan. 26.

Police said a woman called police to report the accident, saying her children had heard gunshots, after Underwood’s car crashed into a telephone pole in the 400 block of West 24th Street in Tyler. Police said they believe Underwood was trying to escape in her car after being shot when the accident occurred.

Underwood died at the scene. She was originally from Lufkin, and funeral services were held Saturday, Jan. 31, at Woods Memorial Chapel Church of God in Christ in Lufkin, under the direction of Colonial Mortuary and Cremation Services. Underwood was cremated.

Organizations participating in the vigil on Wednesday are Transgender Education Network of Texas, Hope for Peace and Justice, Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays), Tyler-East Texas PFLAG, Longview PFLAG, Tyler Transgender Group, Tyler Junior College SAFE (Students Advocating For Equality), UT-Tyler Gay Straight Sexuality Alliance, Life Covenant Church of Tyler, Woodland Christian Church of Longview and Equality Texas.

According to Southerners on New Ground, Underwood is one of six transgender or gender-non-conforming individuals killed since the new year began. The other five include Jesse Hernandez, 17, who was shot by police in Denver, Colo.; Candra Keels, 20, who was allegedly stabbed to death by her girlfriend; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, allegedly stabbed to death by her boyfriend in Los Angeles; Lamia Beard, shot to death in Norfolk, Va.; and a gender-non-conforming black gay man killed in Louisville, Ky.

The park, located at West Second Street and South Broadway in Tyler, is the same park from which gay man Nicholas West was kidnapped, then murdered, a little more than 21 years ago in November 1993. A “Stop The Hate” rally in his memory was held at the park about a month after his death, with about 700 people attending. A marker placed in the park commemorated West.

—  Tammye Nash

U.S. Marine charged with murder of transwoman in Philippines

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Prosecutors in the Phillipine Islands today (Monday, Dec. 15) charged a U.S. Marine in the October murder of a transwoman.

According to the Associated Press, Prosecutor Emilie de los Santos found “probable cause” that Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton attacked Jennifer Laude after learning she was trans. He has been in custody since shortly after the October incident.

“It’s murder,” de los Santos said after filing the charge against the 19-year-old Pemberton. “It was aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty.”

Pemberton will not be allowed to post bail, she said. Murder is punishable by up to 40 years in jail, reported The Guardian.

“This is not an ordinary murder. This is heinous because she was beaten up,” the Laude family lawyer, Harry Roque, told reporters.

Pemberton and friends met Laude and other woman the night of the murder. According to witnesses, Pemberton and Laude checked into a motel, and Pemberton fled after he killed Laude.

Marine Lance Corporal Jairn Michael Rose was among those with Pemberton that night. He told prosecutors Pemberton admitted to the murder back at their ship.

“I think I killed a he/she,” Pemberton said, according to Rose.

The incident reignited a debate between the Philippines and the United States regarding custody of U.S. military personnel accused of crimes in the Phillipines. U.S. officials evenutally agreed to move Pemberton from custody aboard a U.S. Navy vessel into the custody of Phillipino officials.

The case is a haunting reminder to transgender activists of the case of  U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was sentenced to 40 years in jail in 2006 after being found guilty of raping a transwoman. He was, however, acquitted in 2009 after his accuser recanted her statement.

—  James Russell

Police still looking for leads in September murder of gay man on Cedar Springs

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Joseph Chase

Dallas Police are still looking for information regarding the murder of a gay man beaten to death early in the morning of Sept. 25 at the corner of Cedar Springs Road and Throckmorton Street.

According to the DPD Blog, officers were flagged down at about 2:30 a.m. regarding a man, later identified as 54-year-old Joseph Chase who was lying unconscious on the sidewalk near the intersection, suffering from possible head trauma.

Dallas Fire Rescue took Chase to Parkland Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Officials with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office told police that Chase had suffered blunt force injuries to his neck area and ruled his death a homicide.

Investigators later found video footage of the attack on Chase taken by nearby surveillance cameras — you can see the video below. The footage was captured on a camera across the street from where the attack occurred. It is dark and the incident with Chase is seen from a distance and is partially obscured by a tree on the sidewalk. The footage, however, appears to show two unknown suspects involved in an altercation with Chase, and one of the suspects hitting Chase and knocking him to the ground.

Passersby who saw Chase on the ground flagged down police.

“At this time, no eyewitnesses to the assault/homicide have come forward,” according to the DPD Blog. “This offense is documented on Incident Report #230525-2014.”

Homicide Det. Derick Chaney is lead investigator on the case, and he asked for Dallas Voice’s help earlier this month in trying to find witnesses or anyone with information regarding the attack on Joseph Chase. We ran this post, which was viewed more than 700 times, at that time, but Chaney said this week that he has received no information at all on the case.

Chaney asks again that anyone with any information regarding the attack on Joseph Chase call him at 214-671-3650.

—  Tammye Nash

Jon Buice again denied parole in 1991 gay bashing murder

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Jon Christopher Buice

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted today, Tuesday, Oct. 21, to once again deny convicted killer Jon Christopher Buice’s request for parole.Buice, now 40 years old, was one of 10 men — ranging in age at the time from 16 to 22 — convicted of the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard, a Houston gay man who was beaten and stabbed to death after leaving a gay bar in the Montrose neighborhood on July 4.

It was Broussard’s murder that prompted then-Texas Gov. Ann Richards to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to pass the state’s first hate crimes law in 1993.

Andy Kahan, a victim advocate for the city of Houson, said Tuesday, “Since Jon made the deliberate conscious effort to deprive Paul of his life, all we can do in return is to deprive him of his liberty and today we at least accomplished that for another year.”

Dallas Voice is waiting for comments from Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, who was worked diligently since her son’s death to see his killers convicted, and to keep Buice in jail.

Buice, who admitted at trial that he was the one that inflicted the stab wound that actually killed Broussard, was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was denied parole in 2007 and in 2009. In 2011, the Board of Pardons and Parole initially granted Buice’s request for parole but then reversed its decision following an outcry by the LGBT community and Rodriguez.

Buice’s was denied parole again in 2012, 2013 and today. Raymond Estrada, spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the reason given for denying parole was “the nature of the offense.” He said Buice is up for review again on Oct. 1, 2015.

—  Tammye Nash