India Clarke, a 25-year-old black trans woman, was found beaten to death Tuesday morning outside Tampa, Florida's University Area Community Center, reports Tampa Bay TV station WTSP.
A park employee called police after discovering Clarke's body just before 9 a.m. near the basketball courts. She died from blunt force trauma to the upper body. Family told the TV station that they had last seen her on Sunday spending time with her nephews.
Her killing marks the tenth murder of a trans woman in the U.S. this year, nearly as many as in all of 2014.
As Monica Roberts of trans rights blog TransGriot first reported, WTSP and other local media have gone against journalistic best standards in covering Clarke's death, using her birth name and male pronouns, referring to her as a "man in a dress," and bringing up prior arrests that did not lead to convictions in their reports. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office indicated that they would be tracing Clarke's previous alleged criminal activity to see if it is related to her death.
India Clarke's mother, Thelma Clarke, fondly remembered her daughter to WTSP as "a good-hearted person, a very loving person" who enjoyed laughing and making others smile. She was studying to be a cosmetologist.
"[Her] last words when [she] headed out the door were, "Mom, I love you, Dad, I love you. And we both said, 'We love you too," Thelma Clarke recalled.
Sheriff's deputies are currently searching for leads, and a local commmunity organization called Crime Stoppers is offering up to $3,000 for information that leads to the arrest of a suspect or suspects. Officials have not indicated whether Clarke's murder will be considered a hate crime, but the victim's father, Samuel L. Clarke, told Tampa Bay's BHTV-9 that his family has considered it might be and hopes it was was not.
"The Lord made us this way," he told reporters. "It's a shame that we could lose the life because of who we are."
This year has also seen the murders of Mercedes Williamson, 17, in Rocky Creek, Ala.; London Kiki Chanel, 21, in Philadelphia; Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46, in Miami; Penny Proud, 21, in New Orleans; Taja DeJesus, 36, in San Francisco; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, in Los Angeles; Papi Edwards, 20, in Louisville, Ky.; Ty Underwood, 24, in North Tyler, Texas, and Lamia Beard, 30, in Norfolk, Va.
Bri Golec, 22, of Akron, Ohio, has been identified as a possible other victim, though there exist conflicting reports from friends and family about how Golec identified. By comparison, 12 transgender women were murdered in the U.S. in all of 2014, though this does not account for individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death.
Women of color are the predominant group of trans people facing fatal violence every year worldwide. This year's particularly deadly start -- with the U.S. averaging one trans woman reported murdered for the first seven weeks of 2015 -- has had trans rights activists incensed, and demanding structural social change, policy and law changes that protect trans people from discrimination and harassment, and more frequent, respectful mainstream media attention to what many have termed a homicide "epidemic."
Anyone with information related to case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report a tip anonymously online at this website, or send a mobile tip using the TipSubmit Mobile application. They are also asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at 813-247-8200.