Metro Weekly

Man sentenced to 30 years in prison for transgender woman’s murder

Second suspect awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to accessory after the fact for second-degree murder

Keyonna Monroe Blakeney – Photo: Facebook.

The man convicted of killing transgender woman Keyonna Blakeney in a Rockville hotel room last year has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

On Aug. 18, Judge Marielsa Bernard of Montgomery County Circuit Court imposed the maximum sentence for second-degree murder on Keith Renier of Southeast Washington. In June, Renier pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing Blakeney inside her room at the Red Roof Inn in Rockville on April 16, 2016.

According to prosecutors, Renier, then 21, conspired with Arbra Bethea, then 17, to travel to the hotel room under the guise that Bethea was arranging a date with Blakeney, and rob her. Police say Bethea had previously known Blakeney and that one of his relatives had dated her.

When the men arrived at the hotel room, they got into a struggle with Blakeney, with Renier stabbing her multiple times. The two then left, with Blakeney dying from her injuries. Her body was found by hotel cleaning staff the next morning.

Just five days prior to the murder, Renier had been arrested in the District for brandishing a knife on a Metro platform after getting into an altercation with a woman that he knew. He pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to take anger management classes, reports The Washington Post.

Following their arrest, police charged both men with first-degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit both crimes, charging Bethea as an adult. But Bethea told detectives that Renier was the one who had stabbed Blakeney, and that he had not participated in the murder.

According to court records, after Renier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in June, Bethea pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in that murder. Bethea remains held without bond as he awaits his sentence, which is scheduled for Nov. 9.

The guilty pleas by both defendants in the Blakeney case resolve one of three local murders of transgender women in recent years that have galvanized LGBTQ activists. In July, 22-year-old Rico LeBlond was convicted of shooting 21-year-old transgender woman Zella Ziona in the head during a confrontation behind the Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg on Oct. 15, 2015.

In D.C., a jury acquitted Gary Montgomery, who was the the chief suspect in the murder of transgender woman Deoni Jones while she waited at a Northeast D.C. bus stop in February 2012, of the charge of first-degree murder while armed. Prosecutors were never able to state a motivation for why Montgomery killed Jones, and jurors on the case felt that they had not successfully proven that Montgomery was the man who was seen stabbing Jones in the head.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com