A tiara and glittery wig marked a makeshift shrine at the corner of Arkansas Avenue and Allison Street in the Crestwood area of northwest Washington, D.C., as friends gathered Tuesday night to remember the life of slain transgendered performer Bella Evangelista, born Elvys Perez Morales, The Washington Post reports. The 25-year-old club performer and drag pageant contestant was killed Saturday morning in what police are calling a hate crime. Antoine Jacobs, 22, of Washington has been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying. Police said Jacobs killed Evangelista after paying for a sex act and then discovering that the performer, who lived and dressed as a woman, was biologically male. Sgt. Brett Parson of the D.C. police gay and lesbian liaison unit said the killing was being classified as a "hate/bias-motivated" crime. If convicted, Jacobs could receive an extended prison sentence under D.C. law, Parson said.
At the vigil, friends cried, yelled, and got angry, reminding themselves of the struggle that was the life of Bella Evangelista. "We're always fighting," Evangelista's friend Ruby Brancamonte told the Post. "Fighting to be open and to be who we are, to be happy and not hide. Bella was a fighter." Evangelista was homeless and struggled with drug addiction, a result of estrangement from family and the limits society places on the transgendered, friends said.
Evangelista's death occurred just days after the one-year anniversary of the killing of two transgendered teenagers in southeast Washington. Ukea Davis, 18, and Stephanie Thomas, 19, were shot multiple times as they sat in a car. Those killings have not been solved.