Police are investigating the death of Elisha Stanley, who could be one of at least 19 transgender people known to have been killed in the United States this year.
Stanley lived in Washington, D.C. and worked in the healthcare industry. She was on a trip to Pittsburgh when she was allegedly murdered, according to Ciora Thomas, a trans activist based in the Pennsylvania city. Thomas posted a Facebook status on September 30 acknowledging Stanley’s death and claimed there had been “no news coverage” of the homicide.
“Pittsburgh Police aren't investigating this at this time,” she claimed.
Local law enforcement officials have released no details about the incident but alleged they are looking into it. “Detectives are investigating,” a spokesperson told the U.K. LGBTQ+ website PinkNews. “The cause and manner of death will come from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. … As this is an ongoing investigation, police cannot comment further.”
According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner, Stanley was found around 6:30 p.m. at an address matching The Westin Pittsburgh hotel.
DeVar Ferguson, a close friend, said Stanley was visiting people she considered her children.
“People don’t really understand where that term comes from,” Ferguson told the Pittsburgh City Paper. “There are a lot of runaways, and displaced and abused people in the community. 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.”
Some information has been released through local trans advocacy groups like SisTers PGH and Trans YOUniting. Thomas, the CEO of SisTers PGH CEO, wrote on Facebook that a funeral was held for Stanley on September 19.
This is just the latest in a long wave of violent attacks directed at trans women, particularly trans women of color. But while other outlets reported that Stanley is the 20th transgender person killed in 2019, she was only the 19th. While initial reports suggested Ja'leyah-Jamar Berryman — who was killed in Kansas City last month — was trans, a video posted by the local LGBTQ+ advocacy group Our Spot KC clarified the deceased’s gender identity.
“He was a loving man, a loving father, a loving son, a loving brother, a loving uncle, and we just want to clarify to the public as to [who] he really was — and that was a man, not a transgender woman,” a relative stated in the 10-minute clip.
Sources confirmed to Out separately that Berryman was not trans, and this story will be updated as more details come in.
Of the 19 transgender people who have been killed in 2019, nearly all of them — including women like Muhlaysia Booker, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, and Bee Love Slater — were Black. The vast majority lost their lives as a result of gun violence.
Additional reporting by Nico Lang