Two men have been arrested and charged with the murders of transgender women Jaida Peterson, 29, and Remy Fennel, 28.
Joel Brewer, 33, and Dontarius Long, 21, were both arrested April 16 and are currently being held in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg jail without bail.
Following the discovery of as-of-yet unspecified evidence by investigation authorities that pointed to the two men, they were arrested by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s (CMPD) Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, (VCAT) the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Marshville Police Department.
According to the Charlotte Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s website, the two face extensive charges.
Brewer has been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has an extensive arrest record of mostly petty crimes, however there are previously listed assault charges, charges of robbery and cruelty to animals.
Long is listed as being charged with “first degree murder,” (the number of victims is not specified), conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
He has also had three outstanding warrants related to a previous felony sex offender conviction, which included violation of probation and failure to report a new address.
The exact circumstances surrounding the murders of the two women is unknown, however theoretical evidence suggests they were possibly targeted via websites or mobile apps for robbery.
Peterson, originally from Florence, South Carolina, had reportedly made her home in Charlotte for several years.
An internet background search revealed Fennell was likely from Cambridge, Massachusetts originally and later lived in Maiden, Massachusetts, as well as Newport News, Virginia, before recently coming to Charlotte.
Both women were reportedly operating as sex workers at the time of their murders,
In an interview with CNN, Kerith Conron from the Williams Institute at UCLA, explained why he feels Black trans women are far too often victims of fatal violence. “They’re black, they’re transgender, and they’re women. Each of those distinct identities means that they face discrimination, prejudice and inequities on multiple fronts.”
Kaniya Walker, a trans activist and former sex worker, explained the challenges and even fear trans sex workers cope with in a commentary piece she recently penned for the ACLU.
“Sex workers face high rates of violence because clients assume they can assault or rob sex workers and get away with it,” she wrote. “As a trans woman of color and a former sex worker myself, I know what it’s like to be targeted … I’m lucky that I was never assaulted in my 12 years of doing sex work. I’m in the minority. But I have been robbed while working. My experience showed me the difficult situation that sex workers face when it comes to reporting. I wanted to seek justice, but I was too afraid of being arrested to go to the police station.”
Unfortunately, neither Jaida Peterson nor Remy Fennell had the opportunity to seek help from the CMPD. Despite the fact Brewer and Long are being held in the Charlotte Mecklenburg County jail and will likely spend several years in prison following a conviction, the local LGBTQ community is still ill-at-ease as violence towards the trans community continues to escalate at home and around the globe.
“This is not the end of it,” Rell Lowery, a liaison for the Charlotte Black Pride community told local ABC affiliate WSOC-TV. “We want to make sure the fight continues. This is something they have to face, unfortunately, every day when they walk out the door. There’s a chance that they might not make it home safely.”