Men arrested, charged in murder of two trans women in Charlotte, NC

The bodies of Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell were found shot dead in hotel rooms less than two weeks apart of one another

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Two men suspected in the slayings of two Black transgender women days apart in Charlotte, North Carolina were arrested Friday, according to law enforcement.

The bodies of Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell were found in hotel rooms earlier this month. The circumstances behind their fatal shootings prompted the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to deliver an “urgent” message to the LGBTQ community, particularly those engaged in sex work, NBC News reports.

Joel Brewer, 33, and Dontarius Long, 21, were taken into custody and now face multiple criminal charges, including two counts of murder, according to WJZY. They also face two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.

An attendee to a memorial for Jaida Peterson wears a T-shirt with her photo on it Friday, April 9, 2021, at Tuckaseegee Park in Charlotte, NC. Peterson, a transgender woman, was found dead in a hotel room on Easter Sunday, April 4. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Authorities revealed that Peterson’s body was found at a Quality Inn & Suites Airport on April 4, followed by Fennell at the Sleep Inn University Place on Thursday, April 15. CMPD believes that Brewer and Long had solicited Peterson and Fennell for sex.

READ MORE: President Biden signs executive order protecting transgender athletes in school sports

Due to the similar nature of the victims’ deaths, officials from the CMPD, including Lt. Brian Crum, are investigating these murders to uncover whether or not the incidents can be classified as hate crimes.

“The question is: Could this be characterized as hate crimes? That’s certainly something we’re looking into,” Crum said. “I’ve been on the phone with thought people from the FBI and that’s a conversation that we’re having on an ongoing basis. I think as I stated before, that’s a huge concern we have.”

With the capture of Brewer and Long, Crum stated that the community needn’t be too weary regarding these crimes.

Messages are written on a poster board during a memorial for Jaida Peterson Friday, April 9, 2021, at Tuckaseegee Park in Charlotte, NC. Peterson, a transgender woman, was found dead in a hotel room on Easter Sunday, April 4. (David T. Foster III/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

“I can tell you that our investigation has advanced to the point that I feel confident in telling you there is no one else at large that was a part of this,” Crum stated.

This sentiment was echoed by Police Chief Johnny Jennings, who sought to assure the public saying “our streets are a lot safer” during a press conference, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. The CMPD received help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as the other neighboring law enforcement agencies in the investigation.

READ MORE: Arrests made in hate crime against 3 transgender women

However, Charlotte’s LGTBQ community is alarmed by the deaths of Peterson and Fennell. CMPD public affairs director Rob Tufano said sex workers must be on high alert when traveling and be “hypercautious, hypervigilant in who they’re engaged with,” according to the NBC News article.

The Charlotte Observer also reported that Peterson is the 14th transgender person killed nationwide since the start of the year.

Charlotte Uprising, a local LGBTQ+ advocacy group, has established a fundraiser for Black transgender women in need of alternative housing, due to feeling unsafe in hotels, according to the Charlotte Observer. The Human Rights Campaign reports that no less than 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people were murdered in 2020 by gunfire or violent means, adding that most of those victims were either Black or Latinx transgender women.

One of those victims, Monika Diamond, was also killed in Charlotte in March 2020. She was co-CEO of a pageant that celebrates LGBTQ mothers, the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System.

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