No justice for Alexa a year later as murder case remains unsolved

LGBQIAP+ organizations holding remembrance event to empower trans community

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

A false report to authorities and a defamatory post on Facebook led Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless, Black, trans woman, to be threatened, harassed, assaulted, and insulted with transphobic epithets, which were recorded and uploaded to social media, later culminating in her murder on Feb. 24 in an empty lot at the intersection of PR-165 and PR-865 in Toa Baja.

A year after a crime that outraged Puerto Rico and sparked conversations about the struggles that members of the trans community face, the case remains unsolved and the community still demands respect.

As part of that call for respect, LGBQIAP+ organizations are holding an event titled “Reflejos: Recordando a Alexa’’ at the aforementioned intersection today at 3 p.m. to remember her and other people slain because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Toa Baja Mayor Bernardo “Betito” Márquez and legislators from both the island Senate and House of Representatives are expected to attend the remembrance event.

Vázquez Arciliares told the STAR that Popular Democratic Party District 10 Rep. Deborah Soto, Citizen Victory Movement Rep. José Bernardo Márquez and Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassen and Puerto Rican Independence Party Sen. María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón are confirmed to attend the event.

Moreover, the event will also have musical performances from Luis Enrique from Sonòsfera and transmasculine artist Wale Semidey.

“Where Alexa was murdered was where Alexa spent the night; Alexa was murdered in the same place where she lived and slept,” said Kimberly Vázquez Arciliares, who is a spokesperson for Arianna’s Center, a trans-led non-profit organization that is affiliated with the organization Waves Ahead.

The Arianna’s Center spokesperson told the STAR that the event is mainly focused on empowering trans people. She pointed out that Alexa’s murder scarred the community because Alexa was labeled for “being someone she was not.”

“There are some factors which make this murder come to nothing,” Vázquez Arciliares said. “Alexa, being a trans woman, being black, being from a minority group, being murdered, and people coming through social media outlets linking her to being a pedophile, [saying] that she went from bathroom to bathroom hitting on women and children, all that comes together so that the Police or whoever has to do with the investigation does not do much.”

Vázquez Arciliares added that neither did Alexa have a family to support her due to her trans experience, something she pointed out as another factor in the case remaining unsolved.

“This is coming from a personal viewpoint,” she said. “If I was the person murdered on Feb. 24, 2020, my family, my mom, or any other trans people who supported me would have been demanding to know what was happening with the case. They would have followed up.”

A year after Alexa’s murder, Vázquez Arciliares told the STAR that little progress has been made when it comes to the discourse on trans issues.

Nonetheless, she said, “although efforts have been small, we must carry on working.”

“I think that we are trying to put in our grain of salt to empower [ourselves] and make others understand that we are equal while sharing different thoughts and necessities,” Vázquez Arciliares said. “What we want is respect, what we want is for people to be identified the way they ask to be; as I told you at the beginning of the interview, my name is Kimberly Vázquez Arciliares, I am a trans woman, and I love when people refer to me using the ‘she’ pronoun.”

She told the STAR that meanwhile education still “goes on by the minute,” and now both allies and members of the LGBTQIAP+ community are coming together to raise awareness of their ongoing challenges.

When asked what measures the incoming government and Legislature should be considering for the trans community to be treated equally on the island, Vázquez Arciliares said they “must take action and try to keep false promises of what they will do for the LGBTQ+ community to themselves.”

“The government should empower itself on the subject, because many people, when the media asks them a question, go off on a tangent and perhaps do not know about the subject, and it is normal because there are many things that change on a daily basis and they are not used to talking about it on a daily basis,” she said. “It is also important to relate with community members from every identity so they can express their need and what is urgent so [political leaders] can begin taking action immediately and we become part of a community that receives health, housing, and any other essential service that is holistic for any person.”

Authorities: Case ‘has not stopped,’ investigation ‘changes day by day’

Bayamón Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC by its Spanish initials) Director Capt. Ricardo Haddock told the STAR on Tuesday that Alexa’s murder investigation remains open as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working with the Puerto Rico Police Bureau on the case.

“Once the Police culminate the investigation, it will be decided if the federal branch takes jurisdiction or if it remains within the state,” Haddock said. “The investigation has not stopped even if a year has already passed since the unfortunate event.”

“On many occasions, people think that the case came to nothing, but the investigation is something that changes day by day,” Haddock added as he told the STAR that “people of interest have been interviewed and several search warrants have been filed.”

“What we all want is justice for Alexa,” the Bayamón CIC director said.

As for the FBI, Public Affairs Officer Limary Cruz-Rubio said the bureau “always has a program that works on cases where civil rights violations take place, and from that program, every time there’s a case like this, we will always offer our assistance in terms of resources.”

“If they [the Police] need evidence analysis, we are there for them; we offer anything that we have and we put it at their service,” Cruz-Rubio said. “There are legal provisions that address hate crimes from a state level, and other ones that address the same issue from a federal standpoint.”

“Until we can conclusively, through evidence, establish that there is a federal nexus, we, as such, will neither assume jurisdiction nor open an investigation of our own -- that would be in broad terms,” she added. “I’m not saying that’s the case here, as we cannot confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”

Visibility, integrated solutions and gender-perspective education are required

As the trans community has demanded equality, access to essential services, and respect from the government and its entities, attorney Iris Yaritza Rosario of the Independent Union of Lawyers for the Legal Aid Society told the STAR that the system must always bring visibility to their issues.

However, she said that in the process of making such issues visible, integrated solutions and educating law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges from a gender perspective are required to reduce structural problems to “a level that does not entail so much violence.”

“This does not mean assuming the position of [Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice] Maité Oronoz, that hearings will be by videoconference, or that witnesses will not be cross-examined, no, it does not mean giving up the adversarial system, it means becoming aware that there is a problem and that the solutions will be transversal, not all can be from criminal law,” Rosario said.

As for Alexa’s murder case not being solved a year after it took place, unlike other murder cases, the attorney said the delay in such a case is not due to the murder being a hate crime or Alexa’s trans experience, but more so that such cases remain unsolved because witnesses “do not speak up.”

“People are scared or do not want to get involved in the case,” she said. “Many cases get solved, independent of the nature of the incident, through confessions made by the defendants by means of confidence.”

“That does not mean that I, as a criminal attorney, do not recognize that problems [in cases] that involve transphobia and femicides exist,” she pointed out.

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