The first month of the 2018 is only about half over, and already there are two transgender women known to have been murdered in the United States.
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, a transgender activist who founded the Miss Trans America pageants, was found stabbed and beaten to death in her home in North Adams, Massachusetts on Jan. 5.
“Her thing was always that transgender women are beautiful and need a venue for trans women to be seen as beautiful,” her friend, Justin Adkins, told the New York Post.
Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, turned himself in and admitted to the murder, police said, but he pleaded not guilty.
Police have said he told them he struck her in the head with a hammer numerous times and then stabbed her in the back with a large knife before wrapping her in a tarp.
Victoria “Viccky” Gutierrez became the second known trans person killed in 2018, in Los Angeles on Jan. 10.
Gutierrez was stabbed and then her apartment was set on fire with her trapped inside.
The Los Angeles Police Department arrested Kevyn Ramirez, who has admitted to killing Gutierrez, on the night of Jan. 11.
Ramirez was charged with murder during the commission of an attempted robbery, the use of a knife in a crime and two counts of arson on Jan. 16.
The two met online.
“We know that there are people out there who have probably encountered the suspect, who may be fearful and anxious. We ask them with open arms to please come forward,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala, the department’s LGBTQ liaison.
Transgender activists Maria Roman and Bamby Salcedo told the Los Angeles Blade they were surprised and pleased with the speed at which the LAPD apprehended the suspect. Both said it was an improvement from years past.
“They’re starting to take us more seriously,” said Roman, who credited community pressure.
Gutierrez came from Honduras and had been living in the country for several years, working and sending money home to her family. Her sister has said that they are devastated by her death and called her “the foundation of this home.”
Last year was the deadliest known year on record in the United States for transgender people. In late December, a transgender woman who had recently moved to Michigan from North Carolina died in a house fire that officials are investigating as possibly suspicious.