On July 23rd, 2016, transgender woman Dee Whigham was stabbed 119 times in her hotel room. Today, Dwanya Hickerson, a former Navy sailor who was in training in Biloxi, Mississippi, pled guilty to the killing. Whigham, a nurse, had been visiting Biloxi with some of her friends to attend the annual Gulf Coast Black Rodeo. On the evening of the rodeo, Whigham's friends discovered her mutilated corpse in their hotel room.
In a phone call to Broadly, Cherie Wade of the District Attorney's Office in Pascagoula, Mississippi, stated that Hickerson "pled guilty yesterday to the killing of Dee Whigham and was sentenced by the court." Hickerson received a forty year sentence for the murder—avoiding a potential death sentence had he gone to trial.
According to reports, Hickerson said, in court, "I lost it, I lost it," describing the way he felt when he learned that Whigham was transgender. The two had reportedly been communicating online for a few months prior to their meeting in Biloxi last July. Like many other victims of transgender violence, Whigham suffered extreme assault; she wasn't simply killed, her throat was cut three times among the 119 stab wounds.
"I think the plea is a slap in the face," said Vickery Blackney Whigham, the victim's mother. "He gets a chance to see his family and I don't have that chance with my child."
Transgender women of color are murdered at staggering rates. Recent data shows that one in 19,000 people are murdered from the general population every year. For black trans woman, that number jumps to one in 2,600.