Proud trans woman and brave veteran found stabbed and shot to death in own home

US Air Force veteran Cris Blehar is seen smiling

Cris Blehar, a US Air Force veteran who was found stabbed and shot to death in her home earlier this year, was a proud trans woman, her family has said.

Blehar, 65, was found dead in her home in Flaherty, Kentucky on 19 May, 2021 by Meade County sheriff’s deputies, who had responded to a welfare check. Tyler Petty, 18, has been charged with her murder and will go on trial in June.

Mark Stephens, Blehar’s cousin, contacted the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to identify her as trans. Stephens said she would want to be “remembered, honoured and counted” as a member of the trans community.

Blehar is at least the 49th trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming person reported to have been violently killed in the US this year, according to HRC.

Tragically, this has been the deadliest year on record for the trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming Americans since HRC began keeping track in 2013.

Stephens told HRC that his cousin “fought fiercely to define her life” on her terms, whether it was in her military service, “her 20-plus year career in the airline industry” or even in her retirement when she bought a farm and started a family.

“She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around her to live their best life as well,” Stephens said.

He added that Blehar’s loved ones will “always remember her infectious personality”, her “unmistakable laugh” and her devotion to her family.

Blehar’s son, Maverick Thompson, described her as an “amazing mother” and a “wonderful person” who “brought a smile” to those around her.

“She had a hilarious sense of humour that will live on through those that knew her,” Thompson said. “She will be sorely missed.”

Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement that it was “comforting” to know that Blehar was “well loved by friends and family”.

But, she said, Blehar’s tragic death “highlights the need to combat gun violence and all of the factors that contribute to these killings”.

A spate of killings has shuddered fear throughout the trans community. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

US president Joe Biden has also spoken out against the “horrifying” wave of violence that has gripped the trans community this year. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, Biden paid tribute to “those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans”.

“Each of these lives was precious,” the president said. “Each of them deserved freedom, justice and joy.

“On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we mourn those we lost in the deadliest year on record for transgender Americans, as well as the countless other transgender people — disproportionately Black and brown transgender women and girls — who face brutal violence, discrimination, and harassment.”

He also urged state leaders and lawmakers to “combat the disturbing proliferation of discriminatory state legislation” targeting the trans community, “especially transgender children”, in the US.

The community has mourned across 2021: Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Dominique Lucious, Jaida Peterson, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smüt, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga, Keri Washington, Sophie Vásquez, Danny Henson, Whispering Bear Spirit, Serenity Hollis, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, Novaa Watson, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Brianna Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outommuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira and Danyale Johnson.