Police in Charlotte, N.C., are investigating a house fire as a possible arson and homicide after a transgender woman’s body was found in the ashes.
The fire started early in the morning of July 27, The Charlotte Observer reports. The house was believed to be unoccupied, as it was undergoing renovation to convert it into a business office. Firefighters did not immediately go inside to look for any human remains as it would have been unsafe for them to do so, Charlotte Fire Battalion Chief Phil Bosche told the Observer.
But an insurance adjuster found the body of trans woman Bubba Walker, 55, in the house July 30. She had been reported missing four days earlier. She had been burned beyond recognition and had to be identified by DNA samples submitted by her family, activists said. It took more than a month for authorities to release her name, and when they did, they deadnamed and misgendered her. But the Observer has now confirmed that she was a transgender woman.
Now police are investigating whether the blaze was deliberately set and whether Walker was targeted. Friends said the situation is suspicious, to say the least.
“Knowing her, if she sees a fire, she’s pretty smart and educated to get herself out of there,” Clarabelle Catlin, a friend of Walker’s, told the Observer. “She’s pretty aware of her surroundings.”
She also did not tend to go to the neighborhood where the fire occurred. The medical examiner’s office has yet to release the results of an autopsy, which would likely determine if she had suffered injuries before the fire.
Catlin said Walker was active in the local trans community. “She was one of those people who was really fun to be around,” Catlin said. “She was very kind and she loved helping people.”
A candlelight vigil honoring Walker was held earlier this month, and she will be included in a remembrance service for all trans people later this year, activists said.
If Walker’s death is determined to be a homicide, she would be at least the 20th transgender American murdered this year. All but one have been women of color.
“Transgender people, especially trans women of color, are facing an epidemic of violence in this country,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Kendra Johnson told the Observer. “We must continue to fight for a more just and equitable world where all folks living on the margins are safe to live their lives authentically and openly.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has asked that anyone with information about the fire and Walker’s death call (704) 432-TIPS and ask to speak with Homicide Unit Detective Echols, the paper notes. Tips may also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at (704) 334-1600 or CharlotteCrimeStoppers.com. To send tips via text message, use the number 274637 and start the message with “TIP372.” Anonymous tips are accepted.
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.