Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Trans Latina Zoella Martinez Killed in Seattle; Suspect in Custody

Zoella Martinez

A suspect is due in court Thursday to face charges in the death of Seattle transgender woman Zoella Martinez, who was found fatally shot in an alley September 1.

Martinez, 20, had gone the night before to meet Jacaree Rashad Hardy in an attempt to recover the $1,100 she believed he had fraudulently withdrawn from her bank account, The Seattle Times reports. She had arranged for a friend to stay nearby when she met Hardy in a parking lot. When the friend arrived, she saw Martinez sitting in a car with another person at the wheel. The driver sped off, and when Martinez didn’t return to the lot to get her own car, the friend called the King County Sheriff’s Office to report Martinez missing.

The morning of September 1, Seattle city police found Martinez’s body in an alley next to a fire station, with five gunshot wounds and “burns consistent with being shot at close range,” according to the Times. She had no identification on her, but communications between the city and county officers, with the help of security footage that showed the parking lot meeting, identified her as Martinez. The footage showed flashes of light that appeared to be a handgun firing.

Hardy remained at large for more than a month, but with information from his Facebook profile, which Martinez had sent to her friend before the meeting, helped authorities track him down. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Service arrested him October 6 at an apartment building in Renton, a Seattle suburb.

He is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Police have impounded his vehicle, which contained “five .40-caliber shell casings, a fired bullet, and blood on the front passenger seat and on the exterior of the front passenger door,” the Times notes. He remains jailed and is due to be arraigned and enter a plea Thursday.

Martinez, who was known by the nicknames Zo Zo or Zoey, was only recently identified as trans. “While no news reports revealed that she was a trans woman, we have been given permission by her family to reveal this,” Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound posted on Facebook. “They proudly stood by their daughter through her transition and will continue to do so.”

“The news of trans homicide is routinely delayed, which underscores the heartbreaking reality that there will always be more victims than we know,” the Transgender Law Center noted on its Facebook page. She is at least the 41st trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year, most of them Black or Latinx; many more likely go unreported due to misgendering and deadnaming.

“Zoey’s social media feeds are filled with joy, curiosity, and generosity,” Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reports. “Her birthday this past spring was tied to a fundraiser. She repeatedly encouraged her mother in her struggle with COVID-19. Her death is felt so deeply by her family and friends, it is just heartbreaking. They loved her so much. It was her family that released information that she was a young trans woman.”

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