Trans teen died from illegal silicone injections during transition

Trans woman charged with second-degree murder; another victim comes forward

SALISBURY, N.C. — The much-publicized death of 19-year-old Symone Marie Jones on Jan. 12 has led to an arrest and more victims coming out of the woodwork. Kavonceya Iman Cornelius, 42, appeared in court on March 22 facing charges of second-degree murder.

Jones began her transition last year and received breast augmentation performed by a licensed doctor in Florida. The silicone injections that Cornelius gave Jones in her buttocks are known as “pumpers,” consisting of loose silicone that can migrate, causing scarring, disfigurement, or even death. The injections cost between $500-1,200 according to WSOC. 

The expense of the illegal injections is minimal compared to the difficulty of accessing licensed medical professionals for many transitioning individuals. CNN reported in 2015 that gender reassignment surgery at one particular clinic cost upwards of $125,000, and that most patients pay out of pocket.

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Cornelius, a trans woman from Salisbury, had been performing unlicensed silicone injections with non-medical-grade silicone. Cornelius turned herself in to police on March 19. Since her arrest, another victim has contacted police with testimony about harmful silicone injections performed by Cornelius.

The Salisbury Post reported that the second victim, Kaniya Ebony Bernard, is a transgender woman from out of state and received injections from Cornelius that resulted in illness. When Bernard felt unwell, Cornelius instructed her to go to the hospital and say she got the injections in Mexico. Cornelius even visited Bernard in the hospital.

WSOC reported that because Cornelius knew about the risk of the injections prior to Jones’ death, police decided to increase the charges against Cornelius to second-degree murder.

If Cornelius is convicted, she could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. She faces a $100,000 bond before she will be released, and even then would wear electronic monitoring equipment.

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Jones’ family set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the girl’s funeral expenses. Her mother, Sandra Harmon, told Channel 9 that she unconditionally loved Symone, who was named Eugene at birth.

“If he wanted to identify as a woman, I supported him,” Harmon said.

Cornelius’ next court appearance will be on April 5. That hearing will determine probable cause for the search of the suspect’s home that uncovered syringes and other evidence.

“The case is fairly strong,” said Assistant District Attorney Gregory Butler in court.

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