Transgender woman stabbed to death in Puerto Rico home

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Tuesday April 20, 2010

A transgender woman was found stabbed to death in her home outside San Juan on Monday, April 19.

Primera Hora reported authorities discovered Ashley Santiago's naked body in the kitchen of her house in Corozal, which is roughly 25 miles southwest of the Puerto Rican capital. Santiago, 31, was a popular hair stylist at a local salon.

El Nuevo Da reported Santiago's mother went to a local police station to report she had not heard from her daughter since Sunday, April 18. Police said Santiago had been stabbed 14 times. And El Nuevo Da further reported the victim's 2009 Toyota Corolla was not parked in front of her home.

Santiago's death comes a little more than five months after Jorge Steven Lpez Mercado's brutal murder stunned Puerto Rico.

Prosecutors contend Juan A. Martnez Matos decapitated, dismembered and partially burned the gay teenager's body before dumping it along a remote roadside near Cayey on Nov. 13, 2009. As EDGE reported on Friday, April 16, Martnez's trial is scheduled to begin in Caguas on May 3.

Puerto Rico's hate crime law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The statutes took effect in 2002, but prosecutors rarely apply it.

Investigators have yet to determine whether Santiago's killer (or killers) murdered her because of her gender identity or expression, but Pedro Julio Serrano of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force urged authorities to investigate her death as a possible hate crime.

"The authorities have a legal obligation to investigate this hate angle," he told EDGE in a statement. "We urge the police and the prosecutor to appropriately investigate this murder; to determine whether it was motivated by prejudice and if there is enough evidence to classify it as a hate crime at this moment."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.