Cris Blehar, a 65-year-old Kentucky woman who was stabbed and shot to death in May, has been identified as transgender, bringing the 2021's total of trans victims of fatal violence to at least 49.
Blehar was killed May 19 in a residence in Flaherty, an unincorporated area of Meade County in north-central Kentucky. Police found her during a wellness check. Tyler Petty, 18, is charged with murder and will go on trial next June. Police said he may have worked for Blehar. Her obituary said she lived in Vine Grove, a nearby community.
Blehar was an Air Force veteran and former Continental Airlines employee who later worked as an Uber driver. Her cousin Mark Stephens recently contacted the Human Rights Campaign to identify her as trans, saying she should be "remembered, honored, and counted."
"If there is one thing to know about Cris, it was that she fought fiercely to define her life as SHE wanted," Stephens said in a statement to HRC. "Whether it was her military service, her 20+ year career in the airline industry, or her post retirement decision to buy a farm & start a family of her own. She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around her to live their best life as well. Growing up 'different' in Kentucky is certainly no easy task, something we shared in addition to being cousins, and she tackled it with the passion and zeal that only she could have. Her friends will always remember her infectious personality & her unmistakable laugh. She loved others passionately and fiercely, none more than her own son, Maverick."
That son, Maverick Thompson, also remembered her fondly, saying, "Cris was an amazing mother and a wonderful person. She had so much love and brought a smile to many. She had a hilarious sense of humor that will live on through those that knew her. She will be sorely missed!"
This is officially the deadliest year on record for trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming Americans since activists and media began keeping track about eight years ago. The previous record of violent deaths among this population was 44, set in 2020. The total in any year is likely higher, as many victims are deadnamed or misgendered, or their deaths not reported at all.
"Cris was full of life and it is appalling that she was so violently taken from this Earth," Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. "It is comforting to know that she was well loved by friends and family, but her death highlights the need to combat gun violence and all of the factors that contribute to these killings."