Update in the Murder Investigations for the 14 Trans Neighbors Lost in 2018

Today, I learned that there’s an update in the investigation of the murder of Pittsburgh native, Phylicia Mitchell. On February 24, she was shot to death in broad daylight outside her Cleveland residence. Phylicia was a Black trans woman who had relocated to Cleveland after growing up on Pittsburgh’s Northside. She was 46 years old.

The suspect in her murder is 36-year-old Gary Lamar Sanders. He was captured Thursday morning by U.S. Marshalls in Robson, West Virginia after law enforcement received a tip. Sanders is being extradited to Ohio to face charges of aggravated homicide.

A second Black trans woman was also murdered in Cleveland a few weeks ago. Her name was Keisha Wells. There’s no photo of Keisha and no update in the investigation of her death.

14 trans neighbors have been reported murdered in the US this year so far. This is the information I could on the progress in the investigations of their deaths. Hint – there have been arrests in less than half of the cases and no reported progress in at least seven.

  • Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien – Massachusetts (January 6)
    • 42 years oldMark Steele-Knudslien of North Adams continues to be held without bail on a charge of murder for allegedly killing his wife, Christa, in early January 2018. His case remains open.
  • Viccky Gutierrez – Los Angeles (January 9), 33 years old
    • Kevyn Ramirez, 29, of Los Angeles is facing charges of murder, attempted robbery, and arson.
  • Tonya ‘Kita’ Harvey – Buffalo (February 6), 35 years old
    • No updates
  • Celine Walker – Jacksonville, Florida (February 4), 36 years old
    • No updates
  • Phylicia Mitchell – Cleveland (February 23), 46 years old
    • Gary Lamar Sanders, 36, arrested on the run, will be returned to Cleveland to face homicide charges
  • Zakaria Fry – Stanley, New Mexico (February 19), 28 years old
    • 32-year-old Charles Spiess, charged with two open counts of murder in the deaths of Eugene Carrell Ray and Zakaria Fry. According to an arrest warrant, Spiess is also known as James Knight. The arrest warrant also states Spiess faces a tampering with evidence charge.
  • Amia Tyrae Berryman – Baton Rouge (March 26), 28 years old
    • No updates.
  • Sasha Wall – Chesterfield, South Carolina (April 1), 29 years old
  • Karla Patricia Pavon-Flores – Dallas (May 9), 26 years old
    • Jimmy Eugene Johnson III, 24, was arrested on May 17 and charged with murder.
  • Nino Fortson – Atlanta (May 13), 36 yeas old
    • No updates.
  • Gigi Pierce – Portland (May 21), 28 years old
    • At the scene, police arrested Sophia Grace Adler, 33, and later booked her into the Multnomah County Jail on a murder charge. She pled not guilty.
  • Antash’a English – Jacksonville (June 1), 38 years old
    • No updates.
  • Cathalina Christina James – Jacksonville (June 24), 24 years old
    • No updates
  • Keisha Wells – Cleveland (June 24), 58 years old
    • No updates.

If my information is incorrect or not current, please let me know so I can update this post.

I encourage you to connect with resources that track this information on a regular basis.

NATIONAL COALITION OF ANTI-VIOLENCE PROGRAMS