17. 17 is still a girl, a young woman. This 17 year old was an aspiring cosmetologist with people who cared about her.
Yet at 17, Mercedes Williamson joins the ranks of trans women who have been murdered in the United States.
According to The Advocate, Mercedes was estranged from her family and living with a friend, Jeanie Miller.
Josh Brandon Vallum, 28, was charged with Williamson’s murder several days after police recovered the teen’s body.
A day after the murder, Vallum had told his father Bobby Vallum on June 1 that he had killed a person and buried their body in the wooded field behind his father’s Rocky Creek home, according to police records. Bobby Vallum reported the confession to police, who found a partially decomposed body hidden under debris on the property at 9 a.m. on June 2. The Herald reports that Josh Vallum is a longtime member of the Latin Kings street gang.
A DNA sample provided by Mercedes Williamson’s family confirmed that the remains in Vallum’s backyard belongedto the transgender teen, according to the Herald.
Mercedes was misgendered until a Mississippi paper started to examine her background. They also misgendered her. Of course they did. Family rejection, broken dreams, grieving family of choice even the terrible ignominy of the means of her death are common themes in these stories – much to our collective shame and horror.
Hate-crime charges have not been filed in the case, and police have not revealed a motive. It remains unclear whether Williamson’s murder was related to Vallum’s gang activity. Vallum is currently being held at George County jail on $1 million bond.
As I’ve said before, nowhere is the horrifying impact of this epidemic of violence against our trans sister more evident than in the complex data spread of deaths in 2015. Mercedes is the 13th violent LGBTQ death in 2015, the tenth trans woman. Just to be transparent, I’m including violent deaths of QTPOC and the trans community in this list. This does not include individuals who have died by suicide.
Papi Edwards, 20, Louisville, January 9Lamia Beard, 30, Norfolk on January 17Candra Keels, 20, Rochester, January 18Ty Underwood, 24, Tyler TX on January 26Ashley Belle, 22, Atlanta, January 26Jessie Hernandez, 17, Denver, January 26Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, LA on January 31Taja de Jesus, 36, San Fran February 1Penny Proud, 21, New Orleans February 10Bri Golec, 22, Akron on February 13Kristina Grant Infiniti, 47, Miami on February 15London Chanel, 21, Philadelphia on May 18Mercedes Williamson, 17, Alabama on May 30
Angela Scott, a friend who lived near Mercedes in Theodore, said she will always remember Mercedes as a “wonderful person,” who was always “happy and encouraging everybody to get along.”
“No matter what she was going through, she always had a smile on her face.”