Ever since the Republican Party, conservative organizations like the Family Research Council, and white fundamentalists began their political attacks on transgender people in 2014, I have been concerned that their rhetoric would lead to an uptick in anti-trans violence in the U.S.
Sadly, my fears have been realized. The Republican Party of Texas gleefully joined the anti-trans jihad by using blatant lies to bamboozle voters into overturning the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in November 2015, and then attempting to pass the unjust Senate Bill 6 during the 2017 Texas legislative session.
Meanwhile, trans people continue to be brutally murdered, including 12 so far this year in the U.S.—with the majority of victims being people of color. Last year, we lost four trans Texans to anti-trans violence, and this year’s total now includes Carla Patricia Flores-Pavon, a 26-year-old from North Dallas. She was robbed and strangled to death in her apartment by a man she had met online. Dallas emergency crews responded after a caller reported someone running from Pavon’s apartment. They transported the unconscious victim to a nearby hospital, where she subsequently died.
Jimmy Eugene Johnson, a 24-year-old from the Houston suburb of Seabrook, has been charged with murder in Pavon’s death after being apprehended during a traffic stop in Walker County, where police found some of Pavon’s possessions in his vehicle. His bond has been set at $500,000, and there is the possibility that the charges against him will be upgraded to capital murder.
Just three days after Pavon’s May 9 murder, I was in Dallas to participate in a vigil organized by the Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT) at the Cathedral of Hope, where I was stunned to hear that a kayaker had discovered the severely decomposed body of a black trans woman floating in White Rock Creek.
The deceased was later identified as 39-year-old Nicole Hall, who was considered a matriarch in the Dallas trans community. Her death was classified as “unexplained,” pending further investigation by the Dallas County coroner and the Dallas Police Department.
A May 26 vigil was held for Hall as the Dallas and Texas trans community awaited information as to how she died.
The Texas transgender community will also be keeping an eye on the prosecution of Johnson in the Pavon case.
As someone who has been an advocate for this community for 20 years, I have seen some serious miscarriages of justice happen when it comes to the prosecution of trans murder cases, and I have learned to watch skeptically as the legal process plays out.
We had one miscarriage of justice in March. Mark Daniel Lewis, the accused killer of Kenne McFadden, was indicted for manslaughter in November 2017. Lewis admitted that he shoved an alcohol-impaired McFadden into the San Antonio River and allowed her to drown in April of last year, just as state lawmakers in Austin were debating the odious anti-trans SB 6.
For some unexplained reason, Bexar County prosecutors decided to marry the manslaughter case against Lewis to his bond revocation hearing—instead of presenting the relevant facts about his failure to register as a sex offender to get his bond revoked, and then handling the manslaughter case separately. As a result, state district judge Joey Contreras, a Republican, ruled that McFadden’s death didn’t rise to the level of criminal conduct, which allowed Lewis to walk.
The San Antonio trans community was justifiably outraged, and Emmett Schelling, executive director of the Texas Education Network of Texas (TENT), slammed the decision. The local community put outgoing Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood on blast for the botched proceeding.
“This is not acceptable. San Antonio needs to know how Kenne has been let down by their local government. Our elected officials need to be better educated and free of even the suggestion of bias,” Schelling said. “When someone is dead at the hands of another person, a response of some kind through our justice system is and should be expected. Kenne McFadden and her family only saw delay, then denial of it. Nobody’s loved ones should have to suffer like that. Kenne McFadden deserved better. San Antonio deserves better. We all do.”
Contreras subsequently lost a May 22 runoff in the Republican primary for his judicial seat.
So in light of that San Antonio case, you can understand why the folks in the Dallas trans community and across the state are nervous about what will happen when Jimmy Eugene Johnson finally faces the judicial music for Pavon’s murder. Will justice be served for the Pavon family and all who loved Carla? Or will this just be another case in which the perpetrator gets a slap on the wrist for killing a transgender person?
We can only hope that Johnson gets the punishment he deserves after he gets his day in court.
This article appears in the July 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.