HRC was shocked to learn of the horrific murder of Kendra Marie Adams, a 28-year-old transgender woman, on Tuesday in Ithaca, NY. Adams also went by Josie Berrios, the name used in initial media reports on her death. Police have charged Michael Davis, 45, with Adams’ murder. Adams was found in a building that was under construction and had burns on her body, according to the Ithaca Voice, though police have not released a cause of death. Evidence linking Davis to a fire at the murder scene was found in his home; police say he had a “personal relationship” with Adams, CNYCentral.com reported.
Adams’ death is a stunning loss for those who knew her. Jamie Williamson, an Ithaca police officer who spoke to the media about the case, said he’d interacted with Adams, describing her as a “beautiful person” who was charismatic and “always joking around with her friends.”
Actor Asia Kate Dillon, a friend of Adams, told HRC that she went by several names in different areas of her life. According to Dillon, Adams personally went by Josie and performed as Kimbella Rosé. She was trying to legally change her name to Kendra Adams.
"This past Sunday, when I spoke at the Equality March in Washington, D.C., I said the names of the twelve trans women of color who have been murdered this year. Now, I say one more name; the name of my friend, Kendra Marie Adams,” Dillon told HRC. “My heart is with her family and friends. Although law enforcement has acted swiftly, we must all take responsibility by deepening our commitment to supporting and uplifting our trans siblings, especially those of color because whether you identify as trans or cis, we all deserve the freedom to safely express ourselves, without the fear of ridicule or the fear of violence. Rest in peace and power, Kendra."
The murder continues a disturbing pattern of violence against transgender people of color, particularly women. In 2017 to date, every one of the 13 known transgender U.S. murder victims has been a person of color, including 11 Black victims and an Oglala Lakota woman. In November, HRC and the Trans People of Color Coalition published A Matter of Life and Death, a report highlighting how racism, misogyny and transphobia put trans women of color at shocking and unacceptable risk for violence.
Adams is at least the third transgender person killed in New York state since 2013. In August of 2013, Islan Nettles was attacked on a New York City street by a group of men shouting anti-LGBTQ slurs; one of the attackers was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Earlier this year, a transgender person died after being attacked in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Ithaca, where Adams was killed, is a small city known for its progressive atmosphere and located about four hours northwest of New York City. Together, the murders make clear that the epidemic of anti-transgender violence affects communities considered LGBTQ-friendly as well as those where bias and hate are widespread.
HRC extends sincere condolences to Ms. Adams’ family, friends and community.
To learn more about the epidemic of violence against transgender people, click here.