An inmate at a California state prison has been sentenced to death for murdering his female transgender cellmate.
Miguel Crespo spent just eight hours with transgender woman Carmen Guerrero in a cell at Kern Valley State Prison in October 2013, but during that period he bound and gagged her, tortured her, and murdered her, NBC News reports. A Kern County jury last month found him guilty of first-degree murder and assault by a life prisoner, and Superior Court Judge John D. Oglesby pronounced the sentence Thursday, in line with the jury’s recommendation that Crespo receive the death penalty.
Crespo had admitted he killed Guerrero because of his hatred for transgender people, prosecutors said during the trial. Before his sentencing, Crespo told the court he wanted to make clear he wasn’t gay and that he had told prison officials he’d be incompatible with Guerrero. “I had a restriction not to be housed with a faggot,” he said, conflating gay men with transgender women. He had even told a corrections officer that if he was forced to share a cell with Guerrero, he would kill her.
When Guerrero was moved into the cell, Crespo was already serving a life sentence for a murder in Los Angeles County in 1993. He had shot into a vehicle, resulting in the death of one person and serious injuries to another.
Guerrero had previously shared a cell with Jonathan Wilson, who had become her romantic partner, according to a 2015 article in The Guardian. But Wilson was transferred to another prison in late October of 2013. He asked corrections officials to place Guerrero with someone who’d be kind to her, but she ended up with Crespo instead.
The case highlights the dangers trans inmates face when not housed according to their gender identity, especially trans women housed with male prisoners. California State Sen. Scott Weiner has introduced a bill that would require trans prisoners to “be classified and housed based on their sense of health, safety, and gender identity — as opposed to defaulting to anatomy or dictating placement based on sex assigned at birth,” the Los Angeles Blade reports. The bill has passed the Senate and will be voted on in the Assembly next year.