A former minister in Michigan pleaded guilty to the 2018 murder of Black transgender woman Kelly Stough, who was active in the local Detroit ballroom scene, authorities announced.
Albert Weathers, 50, a former pastor at the Logos Church in Detroit, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a felony firearm count in the case of Stough, 36, whose body was found on a street around 6 a.m. on December 7, 2018, according to a release from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Weathers will face eight years in prison for murder and another two years for the firearm charge.
Weathers had initially claimed he shot Stough, who was also known as Keanna Mattel, in self-defense, but prosecutors believed the killing was a dispute over money. Stough’s body was found in an area known for sex work. Witnesses said Weathers was known to pay for sex with trans women, was aggressive with the women, and had a reputation for not paying the sex workers he hired.
“The transgender community is among the most marginalized communities in this country,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “The Wayne County Prosecutors Office is committed to that not being the case in Wayne County. Today, yet another step was taken to protect our trans community members. Defendant Albert Weathers pled guilty this morning to the murder of Kelly Stough. She will not be forgotten. She mattered. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who bring harm to this and other Wayne County communities.”
Weathers did not deny killing Stough, but gave conflicting stories under questioning by police during an hour-long videotaped interview from 2018, according to the Detroit News. He initially told police he was “protecting myself” from Stough who he said had entered his car without his permission, and demanded money from him, threatening him with a sharp object. However, prosecutors and witnesses said it was Weathers who was the aggressor.
During a pre-trial hearing in 2019, Kyra Butts, a local sex worker, said Weathers was known for giving other trans women “the run around” when it came to money and that she eventually stopped going on “dates” with him.
“His attitude was aggressive and kind of intimidating,” Butts testified.
Despite these claims, defense attorney David Cripps told the court Weathers did not intend to shoot and kill Stough.
“It was not self-defense so much as it was an accidental shooting,” Cripps said according to the Detroit News. “This isn’t an intentional shooting. I would ask the court to look at this as an accidental shooting. My client said it over and over again he was trying to get (Stough) away from the vehicle when the gun went off.”
Stough spent her formative years in Detroit before attending college in South Dakota on a football scholarship. She came out as trans after enrolling at the International Academy of Design & Technology in Chicago. She also performed in the city’s ballroom scene and later spoke up for the trans community following the murder of trans woman Amber Monroe in 2014 in Detroit.
“The police are unaware with our struggle so they have no sympathy for us,” Stough told the Guardian in 2015. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to that person to get here?”