News about the recent murder of two transgender women
Family of transgender woman found shot dead Friday left with questions; LGBT community meeting planned
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The family of Brittany Stergis, the 22-year-old transgender woman found shot dead in a car outside a West Side public housing complex Friday, has been left clueless in the wake of her death.
By Cory Shaffer | Northeast Ohio Media Group
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 10, 2013 at 12:15 AM
"We have no idea why this happened," Stergis' sister, Lachielle Montgomery, said Monday. "She wasn't in any trouble."
Stergis was found shot in the head inside Montgomery's 2006 Buick LaCrosse in the 1200 block of West 25th Street, between Ohio City and the West Bank of the Flats, after 2 a.m. Friday, according to a police report.
Montgomery said Stergis, who was born Laron Kidd but has gone by Brittany since childhood, was "a great person" who was respectful, friendly and outgoing.
"She was easy to get along with. She wasn't harmful in any way, she wasn't violent," Montgomery said. "She wasn't the type of person to make somebody want to kill her."
Police are investigating Stergis' death, the second of a transgender woman in as many days in Cleveland last week. Police said 52-year-old Betty Skinner was found beaten to death in the bed of her first-floor room at an assisted living facility in Brooklyn on Thursday morning.
Spokeswoman Det. Jennifer Ciaccia said there are no indications the incidents are connected or related. Police are asking anyone with information about the deaths to contact the Homicide Unit at 216-623-5464. Anonymous information may be provided through Crimestoppers.
The crimes have not been titled hate crimes, Ciaccia said. Still, the transgender community in greater Cleveland is left questioning their safety.
"As you can imagine there is a lot of concern (sadness, fear, anger) in the LGBT community and more specifically the trans community. Many report feelings of being under attack and/or targeted. " Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said in an email.
Harris said local LGBT activists are planning a community meeting for Sunday afternoon. The location is to be determined, but Harris said she hopes representatives from the city's safety forces and LGBT leadership will attend.
"I am working with others toward positive action around support of Cleveland's trans community," Harris said.
Third Cleveland-Area Trans Woman Murdered in Past Year, Prompting Concern
By Parker Marie Molloy, December 09 2013 1:51 PM ET
For the third time in less than a year, a transgender woman has been found murdered in the Cleveland area, leading many to wonder why the area has become such a hotbed of anti-transgender crime.
The body of Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, a 22-year-old transgender woman of color, was found in her parked car on the 21200 block of West 25th Street in Cleveland, outside a public housing facility, around 2:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
Just one day earlier, the body of 52-year-old Betty Skinner, a disabled transgender woman, was found in her apartment at the Deaconess Krafft Center assisted-living apartment complex. The cause of death appears to be blunt force trauma to the head, reports the Plain Dealer.
This comes just a month after Andrey Bridges, 36, was convicted in the January 5 stabbing murder of Cemia "CeCe"Dove, another Cleveland-area transgender woman. Bridges was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. Coverage of Dove’s death became the subject of controversy among transgender individuals, as the Plain Dealer neglected GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide and the Associated Press Stylebook's guidelines for reporting on trans people, frequently misgendering Dove and making use of sensationalistic headlines like "Oddly Dressed Body Found in Olmsted Township Pond Identified" and "Brutal Slaying Marks End of Cleveland Man’s Fight for Acceptance."
Thus far, Cleveland media coverage of the recent murders has been mixed, with local NBC affiliate WKYC misgendering and misnaming Kidd-Stergis in its coverage, frequently referring to her as a man, and using masculine pronouns.
Coverage like WKYC's does little to help police solve violent crimes against transgender people. When media outlets fail to report the names individuals go by, they fail the victims in another important way: They give potential witnesses reason to feel unsafe in coming forward, fearing the same type of disrespectful treatment the victims have received. This hesitance among those with information to come forward could lead to crimes like these going unsolved.
Police have not named any suspects in either of last week’s murders and are asking anyone with information regarding the deaths of Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis or Betty Skinner to call the Cleveland Police Department’s Homicide Unit at (216) 623-5464.
Cleveland Trans Advocate: “I Have To Bury Two More Women From My Community”
In the wake of violent murders of two transgender women within 24 hours, the transgender community is “overwhelmed and scared” — some afraid to leave their homes, a leading advocate said.
By Tony Merevick
Tony Merevick reports on national LGBT news for BuzzFeed. He has covered LGBT community news and politics since 2010 and joined BuzzFeed in 2013.
The Cleveland transgender community is grappling with the violent deaths of two transgender women late last week — the second and third of such murders in Ohio this year, an advocate told BuzzFeed.
“[The transgender community] is overwhelmed and scared and some people even told me they are afraid of going out of their homes because they don’t know what is going on,” said Jake Nash, a longtime Ohio transgender advocate, who knew both of the victims. “It’s terrible.”
Police are investigating the deaths of Betty Skinner, 52, who was found dead Dec. 5 at a Cleveland assisted living facility and Brittany Nicole Kidd Stergis, 22, who was found shot to death in her car less than 24 hours later. Both deaths are being investigated as homicides, authorities said, but detectives have no reason to believe they are linked.
“At this time, there are no indications that the incidents are related or connected,” Det. Jennifer Ciaccia of the Cleveland Police Public Information Office told BuzzFeed. “Neither incident has been titled as a hate crime. The Division of Police continues to investigate these separate cases and will do so thoroughly.”
Preliminary police information indicates Skinner suffered blunt trauma to the head and was found by a home health care worker, who was returning to work after leaving around 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Stergis died of a gunshot wound to the head and was found bleeding in her car after witnesses reported the sound of gunfire to police. Witnesses also saw a person fleeing the scene, according to police.
And while police have not classified the killings as hate crimes based on gender identity, Nash said — short of calling them hate crimes — “In some way or shape or form their transgender status had something to do with the violence.”
“The fact that they are both transgender gives me pause for wonder,” Nash added.
This is cause for concern among many in the local transgender and LGB communities, according to Nash, who along with other advocates, will hold a community meeting Dec. 15 to address safety.
Additionally, advocates will discuss how police can better protect the transgender community and criticized how Stergis was misgendered in police reports.
“These are women that I knew — these are women who may not have gotten respect in life and may also not be getting respect in death — especially the way police have been using terms and way they have been represented in media,” Nash said. “It is very disheartening. Hopefully, with education that can change.”
In April, Cemia “CeCe” Dove, 20, was found dead in a in a suburban Cuyahoga County pond, and in November, her killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
At least 238 transgender people were murdered across the globe last year — 16 of which were in the United States, according to a report by Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project.
As of late Monday, Cleveland police said there were no suspects and nobody in custody in relation to the deaths. Nash hopes authorities apprehend the correct perpetrators — especially because attention is turning to the city ahead of hosting the annual Gay Games next year.
“My concern is that when the community rises up and has a reaction there tends to be an urgency by the police to find somebody — anybody — so that they can make sure there is some sort of satisfaction,” Nash said. “People are watching what is happening in Cleveland.”
Since learning of the news, several in the local community have contacted Nash to find out more and offer condolences.
“One trans person doesn’t know every other trans person, but it is a very close-knit community,” Nash said. “When someone goes missing or is murdered like they were, it really brings our awareness to the forefront and now I have to bury two more women from my community. It is devastating.”