CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Law enforcement officials continue to search for a missing Rowan County transgender woman whose burned out car was found halfway across the state from her home in November.
Elisha Maurice Walker, 20, was originally reported missing on Nov. 11. Her mother made the report after Walker had had no contact with family or friends since Oct. 23.
But no new details have been released in the case since Nov. 25, when Rowan County Sheriff’s Office officials announced they’d found Walker’s car. The Pontiac Sunfire was found badly damaged by fire near the town of Clinton, N.C., in Sampson County, about 45 minutes east of Fayetteville. Walker was known to travel often to the Durham and Camp Lejune areas.
Walker is described as 5’8″, 120 pounds, with “light brown skin complexion,” according to law enforcement, which had also referred to Walker as male and said she was “reported to live an alternative lifestyle of a non-heterosexual male.”
Paige Dula, founder of Genderlines, a Charlotte-area support group for transgender people and their allies, is discouraged the search for Walker has taken so long. She believes law enforcements initial misgendering of Walker could have contributed to delays in the search for her.
“I think that [the misgendering] had a direct impact on the search for her, especially in the early days of the investigation,” Dula said. “When you put out information identifying a person you’re trying to search for, you think you’d be as accurate as possible. Everything indicates she lived full-time as female. By not denoting that and saying they are looking for a male, I think that slowed down the investigation and hampered any potential leads they might have had.”
The possibility of violence or foul play also concerns Dula. Several reports of severe violence against transgender women, particularly those of color, made headlines across the globe in 2014.
“Violence against the transgender community has always been bad and it seems like there has been an uptick recently,” Dula said.
Dula hopes law enforcement will put more effort into the search for Walker. She feels cases involving transgender victims often don’t get the resources or attention they deserve.
“I fell like our cases get swept under the rug,” she said.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office says it “continues to follow any leads that develop in this case.” Those with information or tips should contact Rowan County Sheriff’s Office Staff Sergeant Investigator Jason Owens at 704-216-8683 or their local law enforcement agency.