Friends and neighbors have responded with outrage to news of the murder of 19-year-old autistic Asian-American trans woman, Kathryn Newhouse, at the hands of her father. The LGBTQ media has barely responded, leaving the media narrative skewed by Kathryn’s brother. That’s rarely good when it comes to violence targeting trans folx.
I’ve spent the better part of a week reaching out to Kathryn’s social network. Once they realized the circumstances, they organized a vigil for next week.
The gathering has been organized by Community Estrella, PSL-Atlanta, and Mosaic Atlanta along with individual friends.
Monday, April 4th at 7pm
Oak Hill, Piedmont Park
371 10th St NE, Atlanta
You can find more information on the FB event page.
I don’t understand why most LGBTQ media outlets failed to pick up this story and report on Kathryn’s murder. I do know that this disconnect hurt people. I hurt those people because I reached out to friends of Kathryn’s for more information and was shocked at how many of them did not even realize she was dead, must less the circumstances. There’s only so far I can circulate the original link – places like Reddit and Discord are not accessible to me to do that work.
To their credit, most of them responded to my inquiries to shine a light on Kathryn’s life and death. They began sharing pieces of her story with me, each one a little different as if she was protecting herself by doling out her truth across trusted people rather than just one. The universal element was that Kathryn was a nice person who was always smiling even when enduring all that was happening behind the scenes in her family.
And things were going on, hopefully enough to generate a robust investigation by the local police. I’m not actually hopeful because it is much easier to just assign 100% blame to the person who murdered her and call it a day. The problem is there are at least two other family members in that dynamic – her mother and her brother. It is possible they were victims of the father’s violence, too. It is also possible they failed to protect Kathryn from a violent person. Or worse, they were complicit in the violence.
There’s a complicated history of domestic trauma in the Newhouse family so I’m unwilling to accept that her father just had some sort of snap and killed his daughter. Not after learning he had been arrested and charged for holding her down by her throat on her bed when she was 16. Not after learning Kathryn went into foster care of her own volition. Not after the language her brother used around narrative the day after her murder as well as saying she was better off dead than living with her disabilities and symptoms.
According to arrest warrants on April 9, 2019, Howard Newhouse was accused of “intentionally or without provocation” causing physical pain and harm to his daughter at their home by “holding her down on a bed by her throat.”
Her brother, Christopher Newhouse, also has an account of events that is not quite accurate and worriesome.
Chris pointed to when Kathryn was released from an in-patient mental health institution just before the pandemic started as a significant trigger to issues at home.
“Whenever they pushed her out of that mental health intuition and forced her to come back home, that’s when everything really brought a lot of stress and tension upon our family and that’s when a lot of the stressful stuff started happening,” said Newhouse, a senior at Georgia Tech.CBS46.com
If his father was arrested for holding 16-year-old Kathryn down by her throat, did the stressful stuff start when the pandemic began in March 2020? Will the police look at that timeframe? Will they obtain her treatment records to determine if she was actually forced to move home? Did her father take any proactive steps to help Kathryn manage her symptoms after his arrest – was it a wake up call to him?
Then, Christopher Newhouse said
Neighbors told CBS46 News that police were called out to the home on Bridge Mill Avenue multiple times over the last few years after Kathryn experienced mental health episodes.
“Serious screaming, hollering, physical violence,” said Chris, describing what these episodes often looked like. “She’s nineteen, she can hurt my family now. These are not tantrums. They would happen very frequently,” he said.
Isn’t Kathryn part of his family? She was hurt by their father when he held her down by the throat at age 16. Pictures don’t show everything, but Kathryn was a slender teen and her father was a sort of burly adult. He held her down by her throat, she knocked a glass out of his hand. That’s not comparable in terms of the power balance.
And finally this disgusting gem from Christopher Newhouse
“I know that Kate is living up there, you know, unburdened from all of the mental health issues right now,” said Chris.
So-called “mercy killing” autistic youth living with mental illness is not remotely justifiable. It isn’t a silver lining. There are many resources, tools, and treatments available to help Kathryn manage her symptoms if she wanted to do so. There are tools and resources for her family to learn how to support her. Keeping a gun in the house indicates that the Newhouse family was not actively using those tools and resources.
Institutional failure is a factor, no doubt. But it doesn’t answer all of the questions. What exactly did Christopher and his mother know about his plans? “We had ice cream, everyone was fine and then I went back to my dorm for a nap” is a pretty tidy explanation, especially when you hit the media the very next day to take control of the narrative, especially when that narrative twists the sequence of events.
An adult parent holding his daughter down by her throat for any reason is not part of a healthy family unit.
Will the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office thoroughly investigate all of those angles?
I don’t know. I have no reason to think they won’t, but there is truly no one on the ground in the region advocating for her with law enforcement. And there is no one who has that capacity and bandwidth. But there should be. Someone should be interacting with the investigators on Kathryn’s behalf and the behalf of every other youth living in Cherokee County who is autistic or mentally ill or trans or all of the above.
Will the red flags in the investigation generate scrutiny? If not, will the red flags of this situation generate more resources for young folx living in Cherokee County, Georgia?
That’s on us.
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