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Charlotte police urge caution as they investigate link in murders of two trans women

Charlotte, North Carolina - Charlotte police are urging "critical" caution as recent murders of two trans women in the area may be connected.

Rob Tufano of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department asked for the public's assistance in two recent murder investigations.
Rob Tufano of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department asked for the public's assistance in two recent murder investigations.  © Facebook/Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) say two Black transgender sex workers were found fatally shot in hotel rooms in Charlotte just weeks apart, WBTV reported.

On April 4, Jaida Peterson (†29) was found dead in a hotel room near the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte.

On Thursday, less than two weeks after the first incident, the body of Raheem Fennell (†28) was found in similar circumstances in a hotel room in the same area.

Due to the similarities of the crimes, officers are currently investigating the possibility that the killings are connected, Rob Tufano of CMPD said during a press conference on Thursday.

Tufano warned that "there was never a more vulnerable time" for Charlotte's LGBTQ+ community. He urged the trans community, especially those engaged in sex work, to be "hyper-cautious" of the people they meet up with and to report anything suspicious to the police.

According to 2020 data conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, the Black and LatinX communities were most vulnerable to transphobic murders and hate crimes.

Lack of social acceptance and job opportunities contribute to this vulnerability, says Jermaine Nakia Lee, program director for State of Emergency.

It's thanks to this lack of acceptance and discrimination on the job market that many trans people end up in sex work.

"Sex work is illegal in North Carolina, but it is a way of life for people who can’t find a solid position in society," WBTV quoted Jermaine Nakia Lee as saying.

Police urge people with information to come forward

Community group Charlotte Uprising drew attention to both murders in separate posts on Instagram. The group announced it had established a fundraiser to support "trans folks who are currently under housed and needing a safer place to stay" following the recent homicides.

Anyone with information about the crimes is urged to come forward and report to 704-432-TIPS or speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective. They may also leave tips anonymously at 704-334-1600 or charlottecrimestoppers.com.

Cover photo: collage: Instagram/@charlotteuprising/Facebook/Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

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