Robbery eyed as motive in death of transgender woman

Posted: October 07, 2015

Philadelphia police are investigating the possibility that a transgender woman murdered in Logan Tuesday morning was killed during an attempted robbery.

Homicide Capt. James Clark said police had fielded several tips since asking for the public's help in finding the group of men who beat 22-year-old Kiesha Jenkins and shot her twice in the back as she lay on the ground.

Several of those tips suggested that Jenkins had been the victim of a robbery, Clark said. And the area where she was found murdered - 13th and Wingohocking Streets, near Hunting Park - had seen several robberies recently, he said.

"Obviously the investigation is still very much ongoing," Clark said. "We're hopeful we'll be able to make an arrest in the near future."

The brutality of Jenkins' death - she was attacked by five to six men after getting out of a car around 2:30 a.m. - jolted the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and made headlines around the country. Jenkins is the 21st transgender or gender non-conforming person to be killed across the country in the past year, advocacy groups say, and the second transgender woman killed in Philadelphia this year.

Her friends and family have described her as warm and vivacious - "crazy in a good way," her cousin Alfreda Johnson said.

On Thursday, her family gathered at their home in Grays Ferry to mourn and begin to plan a funeral. Jenkins' mother managed to choke out a brief description of her child - "Jolly," she said. "Kept you laughing" - before becoming too upset to continue.

Jenkins had identified herself as a woman on her Facebook page, and her friends did the same. Her family referred to her instead as their "son."

But they said they had loved and supported Jenkins, who they described as "comfortable" in her own skin, artistic and meticulous about fashion - "sharp," they said, laughing. Her cousins remembered her teaching them how to apply makeup and false eyelashes. Her grandmother, who suffers from cancer, remembered Jenkins helping her out around the house, making sure her refrigerator was stocked and carrying her in her weakest moments.

Jenkins graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School and, in her spare time, enjoyed drawing and designing tattoos for friends. She had hoped to use those skills professionally one day, her family said, in art school or as a graphic designer.

The family said they planned to attend a walk for transgender rights on Saturday in support of Jenkins and her community. They had been shocked by her violent death, they said, and at a loss to fathom why she had been targeted early Tuesday morning.

"Guilt will kick in on them. When they sleep at night, their souls are never going to rest," Jenkins' grandmother, Carol Jenkins, said of the attackers. "They had to be cowards, they had to be dogs, to gun a person down like that."

The family has set up a GoFundMe page for help with funeral costs at http://gofund.me/435vp89z.

Anyone with any information on the killing is asked to call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334 or the department's anonymous tip line at 215-686-TIPS.

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961

@aubreyjwhelan

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