Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Trans woman found dead


Ruby Rodriguez
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A young Latina transgender woman's body was found naked on Friday, March 16 at about 5:40 a.m. on the sidewalk in the 1600 block of Indiana Street between Cesar Chavez and Marin streets.

Police are considering the death a homicide, Sergeant Steve Mannina in the San Francisco Police Department's public affairs office told the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday, March 20. He was unable to confirm that the cause of death was due to strangulation, and said the department was awaiting a report from the medical examiner's office. Tina D'Elia, hate violence survivor program director of Community United Against Violence who has been working with police, said she had heard from authorities that the woman was strangled.

[The woman was identified Thursday, March 22 by Community United Against Violence through reports from friends as Ruby Ordenana, 24. The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office told the B.A.R. Thursday that it had not yet released the woman's name, pending notification of family members. CUAV also announced Thursday that a vigil will be held Friday, March 23 at 6 p.m. at 24th and Mission streets.]

D'Elia has been working closely with SFPD homicide Inspectors Karen Lynch and Tom Cleary and Lieutenant John Murphy in the homicide unit since Friday when the body was found.

Mannina told the B.A.R. that the police wouldn't know the official cause of death until the San Francisco Medical Examiner's office files its report. He could not confirm if the victim was a sex worker.

"They are still trying to make a determination of who this person is and we are asking for the public's help," he said.

According to D'Elia no missing person's reports have been filed.

Knife-like scars were on both arms of the slender Latina male-to-female transgender individual, who had shoulder-length dark hair, according to the SFPD's news release issued March 19. Mannina told the B.A.R. that at press time, Lynch and Cleary hadn't found any identification or personal items that might have belonged to the victim.

"I, myself, and CUAV are disturbed and outraged," said D'Elia about the attacks of transgender individuals due to "transphobia, racism, and classism.

"I'm angry and I'm also really concerned because � perpetrators know that they can get away with harming people in our community," she said.

According to the SFPD news release, a white female about 25 years old with blonde hair was seen walking nude on Cesar Chavez toward the Highway 101 South on-ramp around 8 a.m. on the same day. The unknown woman was apparently seen hitchhiking and got into a blue metallic car.

Police are uncertain if these two incidents are related, but would like to question this woman and the driver of the car, according to the SFPD press release.

Unsolved trans cases

There have been several unsolved transgender murder cases since 2004. D'Elia told the B.A.R. that only one case, that of Dahlia Sandoval, who was found dead in Antioch, California in November 2006, was closed after the suspect confessed.

The most recent suspicious death is Daxi Arredondo, who was found dead at the Tenderloin Comfort Inn in November 2006. Martha Arredondo, the mother of the victim, was upset with how the SFPD and the medical examiner's office handled her daughter's death, as reported in the B.A.R. in February.

Other unsolved cases of transgender women's deaths are: Aina "Fredrick" Alfred Dibble, who was found dead in Stockton, California at the end of May or the beginning of June 2006; Tony "Delicious" Green, who was found dead in a San Francisco motel in Bayview Hunter's Point in August 2004; and Michelle Eddie Lee, who was found stabbed to death in Westlake Park in Daly City near her home in February 2005. No suspects have been detained.

The most famous Bay Area transgender murder case, the 2002 death of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo, ended in 2005 with the convictions of two defendants, who were sentenced last year. A third man is serving time after entering a plea-bargain, and the fourth man pleaded no contest to charges after two trials ended in hung juries.

"In my experience working with the SFPD, this is the second transgender case [where] they have been very proactive," said D'Elia. "[They are] connected with CUAV and make sure they are giving us information. They are registering CUAV as one of the organizations to give a community link and offering resources and responses to help."

Both D'Elia and Chris Daley, director of the Transgender Law Center, said it is unknown if suspicious deaths and murders of transgender individuals are on the rise or if police departments are recognizing violent attacks against transgender individuals more often.

"We just don't have enough data to know whether it's an increase in violence or an increased awareness of the violence to which transgender people and specifically, transgender women of color, are exposed," said Daley, who said that violence against transgender individuals will be discussed at the second annual Transgender Leadership Summit in Los Angeles on March 23-25.

Police are urging the community to contact Inspectors Lynch or Cleary at (415) 553-1145 or the SFPD's confidential tip line at (415) 575-4444 if they have any information about the latest case. People can also contact CUAV's D'Elia at (415) 777-5500, ext. 304.

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