On the morning of Sept. 4, Hendry Country sheriff’s deputies doused the flames of a PT Cruiser in a rural Clewiston, Fla., neighborhood. Inside were the charred remains of Bee Love Slater, a black transgender woman. She was 23.
The Washington Post reports that while police have yet to identify any suspects or leads, the sheriff’s office is reluctant to categorize Slater’s murder as a hate crime.
“We can’t say it’s a hate crime yet because we don’t know what the motive was,” Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Susan Harrelle told ABC 7. “A hate crime is a little more than that. It’s an enhancement charge.”
While the motive behind Slater’s murder remains unclear, her death contributes to an alarming trend of transgender black women who have been killed this year. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Slater is the 18th since January to suffer such a gruesome fate.
Prior to her murder, the Washington Post notes that Slater was afraid for her safety:
But more recently, Slater began posting on Facebook that she had received harassing messages that scared her, a friend told Out Magazine. She reportedly texted a friend that she wanted to leave town the night she died.
“She posted messages saying she felt as if people were after her to attack and hurt her and she had a conversation with one of her best friends the day she was murdered saying she wanted to leave,” her friend Antorris Williams told Out. “She was willing to sleep in her car until she found a job and things of that nature.”
The car she was discovered in was “scorched to its metal frame,” so the sheriff’s office has been unable to determine Slater’s cause of death. But both friends and transgender activists want more than answers, they want justice.
“Our society needs to work to ensure transpeople can live without fear,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said in a statement.
A candlelight vigil for Slater took place on Sept. 6.