‘Deeply loved’ Latina woman named as 41st trans person tragically killed in the US this year

Headshot of Zoella Rose Martinez

A “deeply loved” Latina woman was tragically killed in Seattle, Washington, making her the 41st trans person murdered in the US this year.

Zoella Rose Martinez, a 20-year-old known by her friends as Zo Zo or Zoey, was shot in a nature area north of Maple Valley in late August.

At around 8.45pm on 31 August, Martinez met Jacaree Rashad Hardy, 24, a man whom she believed had stolen $1,000 from her bank account.

She agreed to meet Hardy in a parking lot at the Belmondo Reach Natural Area, King’s County prosecutors said according to The Seattle Times.

Martinez had alerted a friend about the rendezvous, who agreed to keep watch while the meet took place.

But her friend was late, arriving just 30 seconds after Martinez had been shot five times in the front passenger seat of Hardy’s car.

Her body was found the following day in an alleyway outside Seattle Fire Station 21 in the city’s Phinney Ridge neighbourhood.

Hardy was charged 7 October with second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.

Seattle police used surveillance footage, as well as correspondence the victim had over Facebook, to identify Hardy.

After impounding Hardy’s car, a silver Lexus seen in the footage, they found five .40-caliber shell casings, a fired bullet, and blood on the front passenger seat

Hardy had been on the run for more than a month, but US Marshals pinned him down at a Renton apartment building on 6 October – they found him hiding under his bed.

Trans woman’s ‘life was cut far too short’, say activists 

Martinez’s identity as a trans woman was confirmed by her family to activists, the Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound wrote on Facebook.

“They proudly stood by their daughter through her transition and will continue to do so,” the trans advocacy group based in Tacoma said.

Such acts of brazen violence against trans women of colour in particular have deepened fears of an “epidemic of violence” facing trans people, activists, the American Medical Association and president Joe Biden have warned.

For many activists, the spate of violence underscores the realities of being trans in America today.

Trans Americans face higher levels of homelessness, poverty and unemployment, all the while they are routinely dragged into culture wars debating their very right to exist by obsessed Republican legislators.

Activists point to some bracing data to stress this. Three-fourths of confirmed homicides against trans people have involved a gun, according to the 2017-2019 Transgender Homicide Tracker.

Protestors march with chants, trans Pride flags, signs and white clothing in support of Black Trans Lives Matter on June 14, 2020. (Michael Noble Jr./Getty Images)

Protestors march with chants, trans Pride flags, signs and white clothing in support of Black Trans Lives Matter on June 14, 2020. (Michael Noble Jr./Getty Images)

With Martinez’s death, at least 41 trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people have been violently killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has been monitoring the slayings.

Across 2021, the community has mourned: Tyianna AlexandraSamuel Edmund Damián ValentínBianca BankzDominique JacksonFifty BandzAlexus BraxtonChyna CarrilloJeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ SandersRayanna PardoDominique LuciousJaida PetersonRemy FennellTiara BanksNatalia Smüt, Iris SantosTiffany ThomasJahaira DeAlto BalenciagaKeri WashingtonSophie Vásquez, Danny HensonWhispering Bear Spirit, Serenity HollisOliver ‘Ollie’ TaylorThomas HardinPoe BlackNovaa Watson, Aidelen Evans, Taya AshtonShai VanderpumpTierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Brianna HamiltonKiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves and Royal Poetical Starz.

In the death of Natasha Keianna, investigators have not ruled out homicide, but details remain sparse at the time of writing. Haven Bailey was also fatally shot by police in May.

The Transgender Law Center decried the “tragic” slaying of Martinez, who was “deeply loved by her friends and family” in a Facebook statement.

“The news of trans homicide is routinely delayed, which underscores the heartbreaking reality that there will always be more victims than we know,” the group stressed.

Tori Cooper, who helms the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, told PinkNews that this year’s homicide total is likely to eclipse 2020’s, which ended on a dizzying 44 deaths.

“With one month until Transgender Day of Remembrance, we’re already on track to identify more incidents of fatal violence than last year’s record high,” they said.

“Zoey’s life was cut far too short, a reflection of a culture that views transgender and non-binary people as disposable.

“In statehouses and in the media, this year has also seen a record number of attacks against transgender and non-binary people.

“We must acknowledge their humanity, and put an end to this devaluation of our lives.”