A Detroit pastor has been charged with the December 7 murder of Kelly Stough, a transgender woman in the city’s Palmer Park neighbourhood — a death that marks the 26th trans person murdered in the United States in 2018.
On Monday, 46-year-old preacher Albert Weathers was charged by Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutors with the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and open murder by the office — a charge that will allow law enforcement officials to amend the degree of murder or manslaughter outlined in the charges as more details in the case come to light.
Stough, 36, who sometimes went by the name Keanna Mattel, was an aspiring fashion designer who was an active member of Detroit’s ballroom scene and an outspoken advocate for the trans women of colour.
After another transgender woman, Amber Monroe, was murdered in Palmer Park in 2015, Stough spoke to the Guardian about the lack of attention devoted to the dangers so many trans women in America are faced with.
“The police are unaware with our struggle so they have no sympathy for us,” Stough told the Guardian, using the name Keanna Mattel. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to that person to get here?”
In an interview with NBC News, Stough’s mother, Jessica Chantae Stough, said that her daughter had been intensely loved and respected by both her family and the community that she had sought to represent.
“I want people to know that because she was transgender doesn't mean that she was not loved, that she was not cared for,” Stough said. “She has a family who cared about her, who loved her, and I want them to know that transgender ladies — expressly those of colour — they're just not throwaways; people care about them.”
Weathers is scheduled to appear before a judge in late December, and his bond is currently set at $1 million USD. According to the Associated Press, authorities plan to argue that the fact that Stough was transgender likely played a role in her murder.
In a statement, Dana Nessel — Michigan’s next attorney general and the president of Fair Michigan, an alliance of faith leaders, law enforcement officials and advocates seeking to ensure secure equal gender and sexuality-based protections under the law — said that the case is an example of the “excessive brutality members of Detroit’s transgender community constantly face.”
Nessel added that a special prosecutor had been assigned to the case.