Milwaukee police have arrested a suspect in the killing of Black transgender woman Cashay Henderson, whose body was found in her burning apartment building February 26. She had been shot to death before the fire was set.
Cordell M. Howze, 33, of Neenah, Wis., was charged Sunday with “first-degree reckless homicide and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Howze had been in jail until two days before Henderson’s death. He was taken into custody in Winnebago County, Wis., January 28 “for violating terms of his extended supervision from a prior felony conviction,” according to the Journal Sentinel. He had fled from police the day before. He was released February 24. Winnebago County prosecutors filed charges February 27 in connection with his flight.
An acquaintance had driven Howze from Neenah to Milwaukee February 25, according to a criminal complaint viewed by the newspaper. He went to see his mother, who noted that he had a gun, then was picked up by another acquaintance.
Henderson’s body was discovered the morning of February 26. Neighbors said they heard a noise that could have been a gunshot, and they smelled gasoline and saw smoke coming from her apartment. Responders found a gas can at the scene and ruled the fire was arson. Surveillance footage led to Howze’s arrest.
The day after Henderson’s death, Howze came to the home of the man who had driven him to Milwaukee. Howze told the man he had “caught a body” of a trans person, “meaning he killed her,” the Journal Sentinel reports. The suspect was armed, making threats, and acting paranoid, and he showed the man and his wife a cell phone video of Henderson’s body, they told police.
Howze appeared in court in Milwaukee Sunday, and his attorney said he may not be competent to stand trial. He will undergo a competency evaluation and will be in court for a review of it March 20.
Henderson, 31, had been active with a Milwaukee organization called Sisters Helping Each Other Battle Adversity. The group tweeted a tribute to her, saying, “She was nothing less than a joy to be around.” Another Wisconsin organization, the Black Rose Initiative, tweeted that Henderson was “a great friend and great influencer in our community.” She will be memorialized at a vigil and call to action event at 5 p.m. Friday at Zao MKE Church in Milwaukee.
She is at least the seventh trans person to die by violence in the U.S. this year and the third Black trans woman killed in Milwaukee in the past nine months, the others being Brazil Johnson and Mya Allen. A fourth, Toi Davis, died under what police called suspicious circumstances. There has been an arrest in Allen's death but not in the other cases.
A $28,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in Johnson's death. Those with information on her case or with further information on Henderson's death are asked to contact Milwaukee police at (414) 935-7360. Tips can be left anonymously at Crime Stoppers at (414) 224-TIPS or via the P3 Tips app.