Police issue ‘critical warning’ after similar murders of two trans women
North Carolina police have issued a “critical warning” after two trans women and sex workers were shot dead in hotel rooms.
Following the tragic death of Jaida Peterson, who was found in a hotel room near the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte on 4 April, police have confirmed that a second trans woman was shot dead in similar circumstances, in the same area, less than two weeks later. Officers are investigating the possibility that the killings are connected.
Rob Tufano of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) said that the second woman, who he identified as a sex worker, had been found shot dead in a Charlotte hotel room earlier that day on Thursday (15 April). Police are aware of the woman’s identity, but will not be naming her as her family are yet to be informed of her death, he added.
Tufano said that the two homicides had similarities. “Naturally the assumption would be these got to be connected right?” he said. “But we don’t know at this point, but they are consistent enough with circumstances and similarities, and it’s gotten our attention.”
Tufano said the CMPD has been “working tirelessly” to “try to connect dots”, “gather evidence” and “conduct interviews”.
He urged vigilance, warning that “there was never a more vulnerable time” for the area’s LGBT+ community – especially those engaged in sex work. Tufano urged those members of the LGBT+ community to be “hyper-cautious” of who they are engaged with and to call the police if they see anything suspicious.
Community group Charlotte Uprising said both deaths are “unacceptable” in a post on Instagram. The group said it is “working with the Black trans community to identify the second woman”. Charlotte Rising also said it is raising funds for “trans folks who are currently under housed and needing a safer place to stay” in the wake of the homicides.
Jaida Peterson was just 29 at the time of her death. Her body was discovered as officers responded to a welfare check, with a medic pronouncing her dead at the scene.
Peterson’s loved ones have been paying tribute on social media, with her sister writing: “You are going to be truly missed and once again we love you always.”
After her death, the Human Rights Campaign said at least 14 trans or gender non-conforming people had been killed so far in 2021. But the organisation said the number could be higher as “too often these deaths go unreported – or misreported”.
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