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Suspect Charged in London Murder of Trans Woman Visiting from U.S.

Suspect Charged in London Murder of Trans Woman Visiting from U.S.


More than a month after Vanessa Santillan was found beaten to death in a London apartment, police have apprehended her suspected killer, Joaquin Gomez-Hernandez.

A man faces murder charges for the killing of Vanessa Santillan, a 33-year-old Mexican trans woman who had been living in Miami, until she was beaten to death March 28 while visiting London.

Joaquin Gomez-Hernandez, 23, was arrested and charged on May 14, reports the London Evening Standard. He is possibly the same man police originally arrested on suspicion of murder and were forced to release when he posted bail.

Less than a day after Santillan left the company of friends in London's West End, she was found fatally beaten about the head and neck in a Fulham apartment. Two weeks later, police were still at a loss for leads, so they appealed to the public, asking anyone who had seen Santillan recently to come forward. Police set up tip lines in both English and Spanish, notes the Standard.

"We need to know why this has happened and we want help from anyone who knew her while she was in London," Det. Rebecca Reeves said at the time. "Vanessa's parents are devastated by the loss of their daughter. She was living many miles from home, but she was regularly in touch with her family, and she last spoke to them on Friday, 27 March."

Meanwhile, Santillan was originally reported by local media as a cisgender (nontrans) murder victim, but media remained respectful of her gender identity after authorities revealed that Santillan was transgender. Every outlet did, however, highlight her work as a "high-end escort" -- a detail police believe may be related to her murder. Santillan maintained a personal website where she was openly trans and wrote about trips she'd taken around the world with her clients.

Worldwide, a transgender or gender-nonconforming person -- mostly women of color, like Santillan -- is murdered nearly every two days. Notably, that figure that does not include unreported murders, or victims not identified by their authentic gender identity in death.

The U.S. has seen a particularly brutal start to the year, with seven trans-feminine people killed within the first two months of 2015 in what advocates call an "epidemic" of antitrans violence. The deaths have prompted activists to call on media to stop misgendering murder victims and to report on the murders as a national crisis.

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Mitch Kellaway