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Ashley Santiago Ocasio was found dead in her home in Puerto Rico last week, raising concerns of increasing hate crimes against transgender women on the Caribbean island.
Santiago, a 31-year-old beauty salon owner, was shot in the head in the central mountain town of Corozal, the Associated Press reports. Although her car was missing, no signs of a break-in were apparent. Her killer remains at large.
"The grisly scene at Santiago's home raised suspicion that she may have been targeted because of her gender identity," reports the AP. "A common characteristic of hate crime killings is excessive violence done to the victim, and there was so much blood spattered on the walls and floors that police initially believed Santiago had been stabbed repeatedly."
Police have yet to determine whether the evidence warrants investigating the murder as a hate crime. An autopsy is pending.
Gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was found decapitated and burned in another small town in Puerto Rico in November. His killer, who confessed to stabbing Lopez after he discovered he was a man, faces a charge of first-degree murder, but he is not charged with a hate crime.