UPDATE: The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office ruled in November that Stanley died of an accidental drug overdose, according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. The medical examiner's report cited "Combined Drug Poisoning of Fentanyl, Cocaine, and Ethanol Manner."
Police in Pittsburgh are investigating whether the death of a Black transgender woman in the city last month was a homicide.
Elisha Chanel Stanley, also known as Elisha Diamond, was found dead in the city’s downtown area September 16, the Pittsburgh City Paper reports. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office gave the 1000 block of Penn Avenue as the location where she was found, and that is the site of the Westin Pittsburgh hotel.
The medical examiner has not yet made a statement about the circumstances of her death, but several friends have said on social media that she was murdered. If that is the case, she would be the 19th trans American murdered this year, all but one of them Black women. The Advocate will not add her to its list of trans homicide victims unless authorities determine that she died by foul play, however.
Chris Togneri, public information officer for Pittsburgh’s department of safety, told City Paper that Stanley’s death is under investigation but did not provide any further details.
Stanley had moved from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., several years ago but was back in Pittsburgh to see friends, DeVar Ferguson, who has known her since the 1990s, told City Paper. Ferguson said her death raised suspicions because she didn’t show up at an event she was scheduled to attend.
“The detectives are working as hard as they can, but even with that being said, I have questions because she is a trans woman,” Ferguson said. “Are they really pushing as hard as they would were she a born biological woman?”
Ferguson added that Stanley had acted as a mother to many LGBTQ people in Pittsburgh. “There are a lot of runaways, and displaced and abused people in the community,” Ferguson explained. “Without being funded by any government organization, there are people [in this community] who have taken these people on and moved them in, clothed them, fed them, taken them to school, and really played that part as a mentor in their lives, and those are all the things she did for me.”
SisTers PGH, a local activist group, held a funeral for Stanley September 19 and plans a peaceful protest for Transgender Day of Remembrance, November 20. Ferguson said another event in her honor will be held Sunday.
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.