The man charged with killing Detroit transgender woman Keanna Mattel is a pastor at a local church - and prosecutors say they will present evidence that anti-transgender bias was a motive in her murder.
Albert Weathers, 46, of Sterling Heights, Mich., was charged Monday with open murder in the death of Mattel, who was found fatally shot on a Detroit street Friday. Mattel was also known by the name Kelly Stough.
Several new details about the case emerged Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, with several Detroit news outlets reporting that Weathers was a minister at the city's Logos Baptist Church. There is also video on YouTube of him preaching at New Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Detroit, and he was listed as a pastor at a church in the Detroit suburb of Warren from 1997 to 1999, TV station WJBK reports.
In addition to his church work, he was employed at the Great Lakes Water Authority, according to another station, WXYZ. He clocked in there Friday "and then called police an hour after the shooting to say that someone tried to rob him and that he shot someone," the station reports. A spokesperson for the water authority said Tuesday that Weathers no longer works there.
Officials with the Wayne County prosecutor's office told the Detroit Free Press that prosecutors will present evidence in court that Mattel's transgender identity was a motive for her killer. They declined to elaborate.
The case will be handled by a special prosecutor from the Fair Michigan Justice Project, which is collaborating with Wayne County to prosecute crimes against LGBTQ people.
"Open murder" is a designation under Michigan law that allows flexibility for prosecutors to charge a suspect with varying degrees of murder or manslaughter as more information about a case becomes available. Weathers is also charged with use of a firearm in commission of a felony.
A probable-cause conference is scheduled for December 20, and a preliminary examination will be held December 27 in front of Judge Michael Wagner, according to The Detroit News.
More details have also emerged about Mattel. She attended the International Academy of Design & Technology in Chicago and aspired to be a clothing designer, the News reports.
She had designed evening gowns and swimwear, her friend Kecha Jackson told the paper. "She was an artist. She was talented," Jackson said.
"Her laugh and her smile could brighten up a room," Jackson added. "She was a loving, caring person."
Mattel's mother, Jessica Williams Stough, told the News her daughter endured anti-transgender bias but "never let it get her down. She never became bitter. 'You're not going to make me feel any less than who I am.' I respected her so much for that."
Mattel was well known in Detroit's ballroom scene, and friends posted video on Facebook of her performing. Mattel also spoke to the media in 2015 when Amber Monroe, another transgender women of color, was murdered near her home: "The police are unaware with our struggle so they have no sympathy for us," she told TheGuardian.
A benefit to raise money for Mattel's burial expenses will be held Wednesday at the Woodward, a Detroit nightclub, and a GoFundMe page has been set up as well. Her funeral will be held Friday.