Police have charged a suspect with murder and possessing an instrument of crime in the fatal Monday stabbing of 21-year-old black trans woman London Kiki Chanel in North Philadelphia, reports the Philadelphia Gay News.
Raheam Felton, 31, was charged Tuesday after being taken into custody immediately after Chanel was rushed to Hahnemann University Hospital and pronounced dead shortly after 1 a.m. Felton — who was reportedly the boyfriend of one of Chanel's roommates — allegedly stabbed Chanel in the back and neck with a pocketknife inside a house after a verbal argument escalated.
According to a witness, whose name has not been released, after Felton stabbed Chanel, he and the witness carried her body outside to the house's lawn, placed it on quilts, and began trying to perform CPR. When the pair saw a School District of Philadelphia officer, they flagged him down, and he called Philadelphia police, who immediately took them both into custody. Felton admitted he was involved in the crime, according to police.
Kevin Bethel, the Philadelphia Police Department's LGBT Liaison, told PGN that the department considers Chanel's murder to be domestic in nature, and are not currently investigating it as a hate crime. Chanel lived in the house with two other trans women, and had possibly accused Felton of something over which he became enraged.
Felton is being held without bail pending a June 3 prelimintary hearing, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. It remains unclear whether the witness to the murder has been charged or remains in custody.
Meanwhile, Chanel is being remembered fondly by the many trans women she was close to, as well as her mother Veronica Allen. Though Allen says the two had a strained relationship since Chanel began her transition, they had recently reconnected. "She was going to go to court and change her name and then she was going to come home," Allen told Philadelpihia NBC affiliate WCAU. "That's what we were working towards, but that man took it away from me.
Allen is currently raising funds to fly her daughter's body back to their hometown of Victoria, Texas, for burial. A vigil is also being planned at the site of Chanel's death on the 200 block of Ingersoll Street on Friday.
Chanel is being mourned as the eighth trans woman murdered in the U.S. in 2015, in what trans advocates have labeled an "epidemic" of transphobic violence that has taken the lives of Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46, in Miami; Penny Proud, 21, in New Orleans; Taja DeJesus, 36, in San Francisco; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, in Los Angeles; Papi Edwards, 20, of Louisville, Ky.; Ty Underwood, 24, in North Tyler, Texas, and Lamia Beard, 30, in Norfolk, Va.
Bri Golec, 22, of Akron, Ohio, has been identified as a possible other victim, though there exist conflicting reportsfrom friends and family about how Golec identified. By comparison, 12 transgender women were murdered in the U.S. in all of 2014, though this does not account for individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death.