Bee Love Slater was brutally murdered and found burned in a vehicle in Clewiston, Fla. on Wednesday. According to reports that circulated in the hours following her death, the victim was tied up and shot before she was incinerated.
Slater was 23 years old. She would have been 24 next week.
Antorris Williams, who spoke toOut over the phone on Friday, remembers the victim as "fairly popular" and a "sweet girl." "She was really good friends with two of my good friends, so I know her by association," he says. "She transitioned very early and she was in a great place."
Williams says everything changed when someone began threatening her on Facebook in the days before her death.
"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 [the city]," he claims. "She was willing to sleep in her car until she found a job and things of that nature."
Slater's death marks the 18th murder of a transgender person so far in 2019, just two days after 17-year-old Baily Reeves was gunned down on Parkwood Avenue in Baltimore, Md. while leaving a party at 8 p.m.
The deaths of Slater and Reeves continues what trans activists like Laverne Cox have called a "state of emergency" for black transgender women. There are currently no hate crime laws in Florida for transgender individuals, and although Maryland laws prohibit hate crimes on the basis of gender identity, there are no protections on the federal level. The Trump administration is currently fighting to allow employers to discriminate against trans workers.
Williams says he has been fighting to push for better protections for the LGBTQ+ community in Hendry County, the area in South Florida where they both reside. He describes it as a "small agricultural" community.
With Slater's passing, however, he has been fighting for her dignity.
"One of the issues we're having is getting people to get her pronouns correct and honor her," he says. "But since we live in [the Bible Belt], we don't have protections for trans women. I know all of the mayors and commissioners, I've done some of their campaigns. There's isn't any programming or housing in place -- they don't have access to medical care or any treatment so basically where we're at."
When Out reached out to the Hendry County Sheriff's Office, Captain Susan Harrelle confirmed Slater's death but could not verify any of the speculation about how she died. According to Harrelle, "there's no evidence" the victim was bound or shot prior to her death "since the vehicle was set on fire and the body burned beyond recognition."
Harrelle, who misgendered Slater in the email exchange, suggestedOut contact the local medical examiner for further details, but the office did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.
A candlelight vigil will be held in Slater's honor on Saturday in the nearby city of Pahokee. The service begins at 7:30 p.m.
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