Friends seeking answers after transgender woman’s murder

Members of Chicago’s transgender community held a vigil on the West Side Monday night for one of their own who was found murdered Sunday.

As vigils go, it was a small one, held near the corner of Kenton and Monroe in Garfield Park. It’s an area of the West Side known for crime, gangs, and high-risk activity. Just feet away, the body of a transgender woman known as TT was found with her throat cut Sunday night. Police say the murder weapon was found nearby.

Police identify TT as male, but friends say she was a fully-transitioned transgender woman, and they want to make sure she’s remembered that way. They don’t believe her killing was a hate crime, but rather that she was another casualty of life in one of Chicago’s high-crime neighborhoods.

Friend Jaliyah Armstrong said TT  was about 26 years old, and she hopes anyone with information passes it along to police.

“We need answers,” Armstrong said.

There wasn’t any family at the vigil in the traditional sense, but some people said although they’d only known TT for a matter of months, she felt like family.

“She loved everybody. She brightened up everybody’s day, everybody loved her. That’s why I don’t understand who could have killed her,” said friend Gladys Carter.

Friends did say she’d been threatened two days earlier by another trans woman armed with a knife, and they believe that woman made good on her threat. But even as police made regular patrols around the scene of the crime, they worried that the life of someone like TT doesn’t carry the importance they’d like it to.

“It’s like, for a transgender or transsexual, they really don’t care about us. They don’t care,” Armstrong said.

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 A trans woman whom friends identified as T.T. (inset, right) was found dead Sunday night, police said.

A trans woman whom friends identified as T.T. (inset, right) was found dead Sunday night, police said.

DNAinfo/Evan F. Moore, Supplied Photo

WEST GARFIELD PARK — Friends of a trans woman found dead near train tracks in West Garfield Park this week held a vigil in her honor Monday and say she recently feuded with a woman in the neighborhood.

Friends described the woman known as T.T., whose first name was “Tony,” as a hairdresser who was “full of joy.” They signed a poster honoring her and released balloons near where her body was found.

Officers found T.T. at 8:45 p.m. Sunday in the 4500 block of West Monroe Street, said Officer Ana Pacheco, a Chicago Police Department spokeswoman.

Police identified her as a man, but friends told DNAinfo that T.T. was a trans woman. Windy City Times first reported that T.T. was a trans woman.

T.T., who friends said was either 26 or 27 years old, was identified by a friend and employees at the West Side nonprofit Taskforce Prevention & Community Services Chicago.

She had a “neck laceration” and was pronounced dead on the scene, Pacheco said. A knife was found near her body, which was near train tracks in the area, police said.

Jaliyah Armstrong, who had known T.T. for seven years, said she thinks she may have been killed by another trans woman. She told DNAinfo that her friend had a fight with a woman three days before she was killed.

“This woman said online that she was going to kill her. Three days later, she’s dead,” Armstrong said. “It’s just sad. She didn’t go to the police because she believed it wasn’t much of a threat. She didn’t think another transgender sister would kill her.”

Armstrong met T.T. while they were both incarcerated. She credits T.T. with helping her get her life together.

“She helped me get through it. Knowing that she got into it with another transgender woman is crazy,” Armstrong said.

Police have not identified a suspect or motive in the crime.

“This is sad. I lost a friend, and another transgender sister,” Armstrong said.

Reyna Ortiz works for Taskforce, which provides a “safe space” for LGBTQ people on the West Side. She read the names of 20 transgender people who have died this year at the vigil. Ortiz said she feels police do not respect trans women.

“Not on the West Side, or the South Side for that matter,” Ortiz said. “We don’t feel the protection from the police as we should as trans women.”

Rhonda Johnson, program manager with Cook County Hospital’s division of adolescent medicine, told DNAinfo that in the last three to four years, five trans women have been killed on the West Side.

“With all that’s going on in the city, we get pushed down to the bottom. A lot of the transgender youth say that the police pick on them,” Johnson said. “We can put cameras all over the city, but not in this area? When they hire those new officers, I hope we get some of them over here.”

Armstrong said T.T.’s death has her reflecting on her own mortality. She told reporters that trans women on the West Side are targeted, and she said the police describing her friend as a man is disrespectful.

“They always say ‘a man was found.’ They can never say a transgender woman,” Armstrong said. “That’s disrespectful. It’s transgender. Paige Clay [was murdered], and nothing was done. No investigation. No leads. This is going to get swept under the rug.”

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

T.T.’s body was found two blocks from where police found Clay, another trans woman in 2013.

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