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

Arlington woman executed for killing girlfriend’s son

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Lisa Ann Coleman

The state of Texas tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 17) executed a woman convicted eight years ago of intentionally starving her girlfriend’s son to death. Lisa Ann Coleman, 38, was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m., CDT, 12 minutes after Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials began administering a lethal injection.

Coleman and her then-girlfriend, Marcella Williams, were arrested in 2004 in after calling paramedics to their home in Arlington to treat Williams’ 9-year-old son, Davontae Williams. Paramedics found the child already deceased and in rigor mortis. They said they were shocked to learn how old he was since the child, at the time of his death, weighed only about 36 pounds.

Authorities later determined that Davontae had more than 250 distinct injuries, including burns from cigarettes or cigars and scars from ligatures, and that a lack of food made him stop growing.

Coleman’s attorneys claimed at trial that the boy’s death was an accident and that his injuries and malnourishment were a result of Coleman’s and Williams’ misguided efforts to discipline the boy. They also claimed that Davontae may have had mental health issues that made him hard to handle, and that Coleman and his mother didn’t know how to deal with him.

The Texas Court of Crimimal Appeals upheld Coleman’s conviction in 2009, and the U.S. Supreme Court today rejected  a last-day appeal.

Marcella Williams agreed to plead guilty in connection with her son’s death, to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life in prison. Now 33, she is not eligible for parole until 2044.

—  Tammye Nash

1 killed, 1 injured in break-in in Fort Worth

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Miguel Angel Hernandez

Dallas Voice has learned that a member of Celebration Community Church was killed and another was severely injured by a man who broke into their home on Fort Worth’s west side early Sunday morning.

According to reports in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, James Bowling, 56, was killed when he and Don Keaton, 82, confronted the intruder, identified by police as Miguel Angel Hernandez, 29.

According to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s website, Bowling was strangled to death. The Medical Examiner places his time of death at 3:06 a.m.

Police said Keaton suffered multiple blunt force injuries and that both men suffered chemical burns that could have resulted from Hernandez throwing drain cleaner on him. They said Keaton may have suffered permanent damage to his eyes from the cleaner.

Celebration Community Church Pastor Carol West said that Keaton and Bowling had been members of her church for “at least 15 or 16 years” and were both active in “quite a few aspects of our church’s ministry.”

“They were both wonderful, loving men. Just good, good men, very good-hearted,” West said Tuesday. “This attack was just so random. It is really scary for a lot of people in our congregation that it was so random and so violent.”

Police believe Hernandez chose Keaton and Bowling’s home at random. Patrol officers found him sitting in his own truck, naked, two houses down, according to Star-Telegram reports. Police said he took off his bloody clothes and left them in the yard of Keaton and Bowling’s home, but left the keys to his vehicle in he pocket of his pants in the yard.

Hernandez was treated for multiple cuts, apparently incurred when he jumped through a window to escape the house, and booked into the Mansfield Jail. He was already wanted on outstanding warrants, including one for a parole violation on a sexual assault charge from 2010 for failing to register as a sex offender, and on a warrant for insufficient bail on a pending DWI charge. He has been convicted in Tarrant County on charges of assault with bodily injury and failure to identify, as well as DWI and sexual assault.

—  Tammye Nash

Transgender news briefs

Trans woman murdered in Baltimore

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Mia Henderson

Baltimore City Police announced July 16 that they are investigating the murder of trans woman Mia Henderson, sister of NBA player Reggie Bullock. Henderson, 26, is at least the second trans woman killed in Baltimore in as many months. According to a press release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, her murder is “the latest in a string of Baltimore area homicides in the last two months in which transgender women have been killed.”

Baltimore police Investigators said officers serving a warrant just before 6 a.m. in the 3400 block of Piedmont Avenue found Henderson’s body in an alley. They said the victim had “suffered severe trauma.”

Police said it was too early to tell if the case is related to a similar one a month ago in which another transgender woman was killed. The body of 40-year-old Ricky Hall, known as Kandy, was found stabbed on June 4 in a field near Coldstream Park Elementary-Middle School in northeast Baltimore, according to reports by WBALTV News 11.

 

USDA adopts trans protections

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added gender identity protections to its federal nondiscrimination regulations regarding programs or activities conducted by the department. This makes USDA is the first federal agency to issue regulations banning gender identity discrimination in all activities conducted by any employee of the department, according to an NGLTF press release issued today.

“Fifteen years ago, the USDA paved the way on federal rights for LGBT people by becoming the first agency to add sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections. Yesterday, the USDA once again demonstrated their leadership and commitment to equality by extending nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in every program the department operates,” NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey said.

 

Report: Nearly two-thirds of Massachusetts trans people suffer discrimination

The Fenway Institute and Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition have released their Project VOICE report on transgender discrimination in public accommodations, which found that nearly two-thirds of trans residents of Massachusetts have experienced discrimination in a public accommodation setting in the last 12 years. Those experiencing discrimination were nearly twice as likely to report adverse physical and mental health outcomes, the report indicated.

The state’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, passed in 2011 and implemented in 2012, does not cover public accommodations.

Other findings reported in the study include:

• Overall, 65 percent of respondents reported discrimination in one or more public accommodation settings in the past 12 months.

• The five most prevalent settings in which discrimination was experienced were transportation (36 percent), retail (28 percent), restaurants (26 percent), public gatherings (25 percent) and health care facilities/services (24 percent).

• Those reported incidences of discrimination had an 84 percent increased risk of adverse physical symptoms, such as headaches, upset stomach or pounding heart, in the last 30 days and 99 percent increased risk of emotional symptoms in the past 30 days.

• 28 percent of respondents reported they had not seen a doctor in the last year.

• 29 percent reported having to teach their health care provider about transgender health issues in the last year.

The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering passage of the Equal Access Bill, which would improve access to public accommodations for trans people there.

Download a copy of the complete report here.

 

European Court of Human Rights rules against trans woman in marriage case

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the country of Finland did not violate the human rights of a trans woman by requiring that her marriage be downgraded to a registered partnership in order for her to be legally recognized as a woman.

Before gender reassignment surgery, Ms. Hamalainen had married a woman, and Finnish authorities argued that legally recognizing her gender as female without ending her marriage would result in a same-sex marriage, which is not allowed under Finnish law.

Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: “The Finnish authorities argued and the European Court agreed that Ms Hamalainen’s family did not suffer disproportionately by their marriage being downgraded to a registered partnership as a registered partnership is almost identical to marriage in terms of rights and protections. Nevertheless, the court missed an important opportunity to condemn humiliating and discriminatory practices across Europe requiring trans people to end their existing marriage to obtain legal gender recognition.”

Trans people must end existing marriages to partners of the same-gender as they are post-transition to obtain legal gender recognition in 32 of 49 European countries.

—  Tammye Nash

Suspect arrested in 2-year-old murder of Mollie Olgin

DavidStrickland

David Malcolm Strickland

A suspect has been arrested in the murder of Mollie Olgin and shooting of Kristene Chapa in Portland, Tex.

According to the local NBC affiliate, David Malcolm Strickland, 27, was arrested along with his wife, Laura Kimberly, 23, on Friday by U.S. Marshals and Texas Rangers in the San Antonio suburb of Helotes.

The attack took place two years ago and stunned the LGBT community throughout Texas. Dallas activist Cd Kirven collected funds for Portland’s crime stoppers program and organized a local vigil.

The murder took place in a park in the coastal Texas town. Olgin was found dead and Chapa has been recovering from her injuries. According to the NBC report, she is still receiving physical therapy.

Told about the capture of the suspect, Chapa told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, “It will never take back the pain and hurt he did to our families. And it won’t bring Mollie back.”

 

 

—  David Taffet