Investigators in Jacksonville, North Carolina, announced yesterday they now believe a trans woman whose lifeless body was found last month was murdered, but police and local media continue to use the victim’s deadname in public records. The body of Jenna Franks, 34, was found by city workers February 24th in a wooded area adjacent to a ditch they were clearing. GLAAD and friends of Franks called out the Jacksonville Police Department and local media for repeatedly misgendering her in death. Franks is the 9th known transgender victim of violence so far this year in the United States.
“Information obtained over the few days have investigators treating the case as a homicide,” Captain Mike Capps, supervisor of Jacksonville Police Department Investigative Services Division, said in a statement. He declined to release any further information at the time “due to the open investigation” but again deadnamed Franks in his statement.
Police were called to investigate the discovery of a body by personnel from the Jacksonville City Streets Division in the area of Ellis Boulevard and White Street on Wednesday of last week. Workers led police to the lifeless body of Franks which was located between a bike path and Ellis Boulevard. Police have released little information on her death other than to say they now are investigating the case as a homicide.
Dennis Biancuzzo, director of Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, said in a statement Franks was “a transgender woman” who was “loved by many people” in the local community.
“But the first thing reported about her by local media was the one thing I never wanted to hear: the deadname she was assigned at birth,” Biancuzzo revealed.
“It’s unfortunate that North Carolina’s local media has failed transgender North Carolinians at a time when accuracy and representation are needed the most,” Serena Sonoma, communications coordinator and regional media lead, U.S. South for GLAAD, said in a statement. By “choosing not to respect trans identities,” Sonoma said local media “opens the community up to discrimination, and potentially more violence.”
According to GLAAD, organizations including Equality North Carolina, Campaign for Southern Equality, and The Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, all contacted The Jacksonville Daily News and CBS-affiliate WNCT-TV as well as the local police to update their records with Franks name, and they have not.
Franks is the ninth known trans victim of violence so far this year. Last year was the worst year on record for trans violence in America, with a reported 45 known victims although many crimes go unreported or victims are misgendered or deadnamed.
Police have asked anyone with information to contact Detective Kymberly Schott at (910) 938-6414 or [email protected] or Crime Stoppers at (910) 938-3273. Information can also be anonymously texted by typing TIP4CSJAX along with the relevant information to 274637 (CRIMES). Refer to Case 21-00540 when calling or texting about the investigation.