Dallas police have made an arrest in the murder of transgender woman Muhlaysia Booker, and the suspect is a man who was already being held in two unrelated homicides.
Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 33, is charged with killing Booker as well as two nontrans victims, Kenneth Cichocki and Leticia Grant, all in May, The Dallas Morning News reports. He was arrested June 5 in connection with Cichocki’s and Grant’s deaths, and police announced Wednesday that they had linked him to Booker’s slaying. He drove a Lincoln LS that met the description of the one that picked Booker up before her death, police noted.
Lyles is also a person of interest in the death of another trans woman, Chynal Lindsey, whose body was pulled from a lake in Dallas June 1, but he has not been charged, police said. He has not been connected to other recent attacks on trans women in Dallas, although police are looking into similarities in those crimes.
Lyles is being held without bail in the Collin County Jail. Although Texas hate-crimes law does not cover crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity, federal law does, and authorities are investigating whether Booker’s murder meets the standards for hate-crimes prosecution under the federal statute, the Morning News reports.
Some members of Booker’s family were skeptical that Lyles was responsible for her death. Booker was always surrounded by close friends, and none of them were familiar with him, her aunt Quan Booker told the paper. “If this is the one who killed my niece, I want to talk to him myself,” she said. “I want to be in the courtroom; I want to ask him why.”
Leslie McMurray, transgender education and advocacy coordinator for the Resource Center in Dallas, was at least somewhat encouraged by the arrest. “I’m just hoping that he’s the right guy,” McMurray said, adding that law enforcement now needs to address the other attacks on trans women in the city, including a murder last October and a stabbing in April in which the victim survived.
Nationwide, nine transgender women, all African-American, are known to have been murdered this year.