Charlotte, North Carolina, police believe that someone may be targeting transgender women after two women were found shot to death in hotel rooms since the weeks following Easter.
29-year-old Jaida Peterson was found in a hotel in west Charlotte Easter morning. Then, on Thursday the body of 28-year-old Raheem Fennell was found at the Sleep Inn in University City, some 20 minutes from where Peterson had been found.
Police issued an “urgent” warning on Thursday following what they called “pretty consistent similarities” in both cases. In addition to similar causes and locations of death, police have also identified both victims as sex workers. In a press conference Thursday evening, police spokesman Rob Tufano issued a call for members of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically sex workers, to be on guard, saying “There is probably, arguably, never a more vulnerable time for them than tonight, until this person or these people — whomever it is that’s involved and responsible for these cases — until they’re apprehended, arrested, and charged.”
CMPD urges all members of the LGBTQ Community engaged in sex work to exercise extreme caution and immediately report anything suspicious by calling 9-1-1.
— CMPD News (@CMPD) April 15, 2021
Although police don’t know if the cases are linked, “they’re consistent enough … that it’s gotten our attention,” he said. Charlotte LGBTQ+ organizations have issued their own warnings for the community.
Charlotte Uprising has posted on Twitter that “Hotels are not safe” and urges Black trans women and girls experiencing homelessness, as well as sex workers, to reach out to the organization if they don’t feel safe.
— Charlotte Uprising (@cltuprising) April 16, 2021
In a statement on Facebook, Charlotte Pride says that it “stands with our transgender community. We ask that each and every LGBTQ person remain vigilant and support each other during this time.”