Three years ago, a black trans woman decried the number of people like her being killed in Detroit’s Palmer Park neighborhood. And that’s exactly where a local pastor allegedly shot and killed her last Friday morning. Keanna Mattel, who was identified by police as Kelly Stough but went by the name Mattel among friends, joins the known 23 transgender individuals killed in America this year — and at least three transgender woman of color killed in Detroit alone since 2011. She was 36 and beloved within the city’s ballroom scene, a community of LGBTQ performers.
The man accused of murdering Mattel, Albert Weathers of nearby Sterling Heights, clocked into work after Mattel died, an anonymous source told WXYZ. About an hour after that, he allegedly reported to police that he'd shot a person trying to rob him. He’s been charged with murder and felony firearm charges. He’ll appear in court on December 20. His attorney, David Cripps, did not immediately return a VICE News request for comment. Police haven’t yet released a motive for the killing, but the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said attorneys will present evidence in court that show Mattel’s identity played a role in her death, according to the Detroit Free Press. The city has been on high alert since criticism surrounding the handling of the 2015 deaths of two transgender women of color, Ashton O’Hara and Amber Monroe, who were killed weeks apart and found in the same local park. Another transgender woman of color and Detroiter, Shelley Hilliard, was killed and dismembered in 2011 after a local police officer outed her as an informant in a drug case.
Between 2011 and 2016, seven known transgender persons or gender non-conforming individuals were killed in Detroit, all of whom were last seen alive in the Palmer Park neighborhood, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit isn’t the only U.S. city grappling with a string of murders of transgender people of color. Three black transgender women were murdered in Louisiana in a two-week span in 2017.
“The police are unaware with our struggle, so they have no sympathy for us,” Mattel told the Guardian in 2015. “Nobody ever asks what happened to that person to get here.”
Mattel’s case has been turned over to special prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz with the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a collaboration effort between the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Fair Michigan Foundation, which assists law enforcement agencies on crimes against LGBTQ individuals. Horowitz did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment. Mattel’s family has set up a GoFundMe to cover her funeral expenses.
Cover image: Photo via Facebook