Brutal 2015 Murder of a Young Trans Woman in Columbus

Ryan Zimmerman was a 21-year-old trans person from Kentucky who went missing in Columbus, Ohio, in 2015. The ex-spouse of her male partner and the spouse’s new wife killed her in 2015. Most of this information, including her identity, recently came to light.

ContentNote: anti-trans violence, murder, dismemberment, missing persons

Ryan Zimmerman via Facebook

The Crime

Based on this and other information below, we are referring to Ryan by that name and using she/her pronouns as she was presenting as female in her final days. Note that the circumstances of Ryan’s death might be disturbing.

Ryan had begun to explore her trans femme identity, including placing an ad on Craigslist to find a partner. The ad clearly specified Ryan was looking for a relationship as a woman. It is unclear when Ryan began this process or inquiries.

Subsequently, a married man in Columbus named Corey Buzzard contacted her online. In Aug. 6, 2015, Ryan moved to Columbus .. She moved in with the family group. The plan was for Corey to have a relationship with Zimmerman while his wife, Sarah Buzzard, would have a relationship with another trans woman, Naira Whitaker, whom they had brought into their home. (Vocal Media)

However, shortly into this arrangement, the women asked Ryan to move out. They claimed Corey had instructed them to do so. When Ryan resisted, Sarah strangled her. Together with Naira, Sarah would dismḛmbḛr Ryan before scattering her remains in several parts of Ohio.

Seven years later, Sarah was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 30 years. Her second spouse Naira as police were serving a warrant on her in this crime. .

Ryan was presumed missing. However, in early 2016 a person walking their dog in West Bank State Park off U.S. 127 in Columbus, Ohio found human remains. It was Ryan, but this wouldn’t be determined for another four years. Pieces of Ryan were missing. Some still are. I mean that sadly quite literally as well as metaphorically.

The remains went unidentified for over four years until a forensic investigator saw a potential connection with Ryan’s missing persons case.. Authorities had extracted Ryan’s DNA from the remains, but had no family DNA on file attached to Ryan’s missing person case. Family DNA samples soon proved that Ryan had been found at last.

Honoring Ryan

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi, Ryan relocated in before 2015 to Corbin, Kentucky about 90 minutes south of Lexington. It appears she had three siblings, one sister and two brothers. Ryan studied at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. At least two of her siblings remained in Missippi. Ryan’s parents lived in Kentucky.

Ryan’s family claimed she was fond of video games, computers, cartoons, and enjoyed playing with her younger brother. Her Facebook profile from her mid to late teens is filled with both enthusiastic and disapproving gaming content. She used avatars rather than photographs. I may be imagining a gradual shift in how she depicted herself.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations did a deep dive into Ryan’s social media and online activity. They discovered she had been exploring hormone therapy and voice training to facilitate her transition. Additionally, Ryan had been shopping for female clothing

We don’t know what name Ryan chose or if she did consider another name. Maybe she never had the opportunity. I consulted and determined that using she/her pronouns was most appropriate and accurate to memorialize Ryan.

Each year, Ryan’s family post on her Facebook page. It is clear that whatever was happening in their family, there is real love. And an absence. Hoping for all those years only to learn the worst possible outcome. The toll that must take on any family is unimaginable.

This is why we must protect trans kids. We must give them safety and acceptance regardless if we understand. We must try because Ryan’s fate is the other option. Too often.

The Context

Ryan left her home in Corbin, Kentucky to pursue her life as a woman. She put herself in a dangerous, ultimately fatal, living situation to live as a woman. Was this her only choice? Perhaps the only viable path she saw. What was life in Mississippi and Kentucky like to drive her to such an extreme decision?

The woman who murdered Ryan was 25 at the time. Her wife who participated in dismembering and disposing of Ryan was 28 at the time. Sarah was tried and convicted. Naria Jenna Walker died by suicide when police attempted to arrest her. I believe Corey was also 25.. No charges for Corey Buzzard. He left Ryan alone with the two women, giving them instructions to evict Ryan. He went to a hotel with another partner. So they killed her? Corey had no knowledge this extreme step was a possibility. Come on … either they were known to have homicidal tendencies or they feared Corey so much they took this drastic step. It is hard to fathom that this person was not part of the plan or at least not a motivating factor. Or unaware. That’s perhaps difficult to prove, but preposterous to not believe.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m gravely concerned about the increasing incidents of young people murdering young trans people often with vicious brutality. Of course young people are capable of horrible actions, but I think we should be talking about the impact of the systemic anti-trans rhetoric on the perpetrators as well. Some Gen Z and Alpha Gen youth grow up in households filled with extremist propaganda and ignorance. These kids deserve to understand there’s a different world than simply being spoon fed hatred.

On Sept. 25, 2015, Buzzard’s husband checked into a hotel in downtown Columbus with a fifth party visiting from Athens — about 84 miles southeast of Columbus — and didn’t check out until Sept. 27. Buzzard allegedly killed Zimmerman while her husband was at the hotel with the unidentified person.

Ryan is the ninth trans person whose violent death reported in 2024 to date. She is the sixth trans woman. Ryan is the second white person. Seven out of the eight known victims were BIPOC folx. Ryan is the second youngest person, tied with Alex Franco, on our list. As of today, a trans neighbor has been reported killed every 10.6 days. This list continues to grow. Note, Ryan disappeared in 2015, was killed that same year, remains discovered in 2016, and identified in 2020. So she would be placed on the TDOR list appropriately.

I must note another significant factor. Like Ryan, Jacob Williamson was a young trans person, age 18, when they also got involved with a vicious monster using online communication. Jacob had been out as a trans man for 24 days. Jacob was partially dismembered by the young man and woman who killed him. And like Ryan, Jacob’s story remains under the radar. In 2021, a 21 year old trans man of Indigenous and white heritage was also brutally murdered and butchered in Slab City, California. His name was Poe Black and to my knowledge there have been no leads in the investigation.

There is the common themes of recently out trans youth, young people as their killers, and desecration of their bodies after death. This is absolutely where the anti-trans rhetoric of the recent years has led us. To Poe, Jacob, and Ryan among far too many others. Ryan and Poe were 21, Jacob 18. How is that not generating outrage?

Rest in power, Ryan. I wish you had the chance to grow into your adult life with love and support. You deserved so much better in your life and in your death. Thank you for the creativity and ingenuity you brought to this world. I am so sorry we failed to keep you safe.

May your memory be a revolution

This is our list

This is our list of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming neighbors who have been victims of the campaign of terror in 2024. Please do not copy, modify, or share this list without attribution.

  1. Kitty Monroe – January 1, 2024. Phoenix, Arizona. Age 43.
  2. Nex Benedict – February 8, 2024. Owasso, Oklahoma. Age 16.
  3. Righteous Torrence ‘T K’ Chevy Hill – February 29, Atlanta. Georgia. Age 35.
  4. Reyna Hernandez – Between Feb 28 and March 28, location TBD. Age 54.
  5. Diamond Cherish Brigman – March 16, 2024, Houston, Texas. Age 36.
  6. Alex Franco – March 19, 2024. Salt Lake City, Utah. Age 21.
  7. Meraxes Medina – March 19, 2024, Los Angeles, California. Age 24.
  8. Cecilia Gentili – February 6, 2024, New YorkCity, New York. Age 52.
  9. Ryan Zimmerman – September 2015, Columbus Ohio. Age 21. Discovered in 2016, Identified in 2020.
Trans deaths


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