Suspects accused in trans South Carolina teenager’s killing face new charges

Joshua Newton and Victoria Smith

Two suspects arrested in connection with the killing of 18-year-old trans man Jacob Williamson have had new charges filed against them.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina confirmed on Friday (4 August) it had filed new charges against Joshua Newton, 25, and Victoria Smith, 22.

The couple had been arrested and charged in connection with the killing of 18-year-old Jacob Williamson, from South Carolina, who went missing on 30 June. His body was found by a roadside in South Carolina, close to the North Carolina border, on 4 July.

Newton, from Monroe in North Carolina, was originally charged with first-degree murder and obstruction of justice, while his girlfriend Smith was originally charged with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact.

Both have now been charged with felony conspiracy and Smith has also now been charged with first-degree murder.

Williamson had reportedly arranged to meet a man he met online before his death. At the time of his death, he was staying with a friend an co-worker, Promise Edwards, after being forced to leave his family home.

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In a tribute on social media after his death, Edwards wrote: “This world was so cruel to Jacob his entire life. I find peace knowing that in the last month-and-a-half, he found peace.”

After Williamson’s killing was first reported, the non-profit advocacy group Human Rights Campaign condemned media outlets who had misgendered Williamson in their coverage, as well as initial police reports of his death.

In a statement, it wrote that the lack of respect for Williamson’s identified gender was an “injustice,” adding that it was representative of the anti-trans stigma that is “exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices.”

HRC found that an estimated three-quarters of all trans hate crime victims in the US have either been misgendered by the media, law enforcement, or both.

On the level of violence against trans people in the US, Transgender Justice Initiative community engagement director, Tori Cooper, said: “The fatal attacks against our community are always heartbreaking, but that heartbreak is compounded when the person killed is so young and unable to live out their hopes and dreams.

“Williamson was a light to so many, and we stand with those who loved him as they seek justice.”

Williamson’s death is believed to be at least the 14th publicly reported violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in the US in 2023.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.