TAMPA, Fla — According to the Human Rights Campaign, HRC, at least 57 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were violently killed in 2021.
It's a number that has steadily climbed for the last few years and the HRC said Black and brown trans women are most often the victims. This grim reality is one that the trans community lives with every day.
Lucas Wehle is a former leader with PFLAG Tampa, an LGBTQ+ ally organization. He said the number of deaths is already climbing in 2022.
"Every year we see it get worse before it gets better. But, it's really difficult to know when it's going to take that turn," said Wehle.
Another number that is important to Wehle is 46. His friend Jenny, a trans woman known to the Sulphur Springs area, was identified as the 46th trans person killed last year.
We first spoke to Wehle a month after Jenny's death. Now, Tampa police say they've charged her suspected killer with her murder and the murder of another woman in the area.
According to pre-trial documents, Damien Marshall is charged with first-degree murder in connection to the death of Linda Harris. She was found dead in late September in an old house on Sligh Avenue that was set to be demolished.
Those same documents show that two months later in November, Jenny was found dead near a home in Sulfur Springs. Marshall is also facing a first-degree murder charge in connection to her case.
Both women were said to be found with "wounds" on their bodies. According to TPD, Marshall admitted to having sex with both women but said that they were alive when he left.
ABC Action News hasn't been able to get in contact with Harris' family, but we did speak to Wehle, again, about Jenny. He said Damien being charged doesn't bring a full sense of closure.
"Maybe closure in the sense that we're not looking and wondering anymore? But no, it doesn't bring her back and it certainly doesn't help any other case that is very similar to hers as well, this one was just closer to home," said Wehle.
Wehle said Jenny's murder is especially troubling given the rising violence against people who identify as transgender. He also said more often than not, when it comes to murder like Jenny's, the victim knows their killer in some capacity.
"A transwoman may meet up with someone if they're in a dating setting and from there either they didn't know she was trans or they find out she was trans or sometimes they know someone else finds out that she's trans," said Wehle.
He added that better education about the LGBTQ+ community is key to cutting down on this type of violence.
Here are a few Tampa Bay area LGBTQ+ resources: