A transgender woman is believed to be the victim whose body was found inside a burned car in Southwest Florida on Wednesday.
Hendry County deputies were alerted by a call about a vehicle fire in the area of 13th Street and Virginia Avenue in Harlem, Fla., a census-designated place just outside the city of Clewiston.
Investigators discovered a body in the vehicle, saying both were burned “beyond recognition,” according to NBC2.
Police are asking members of the community to provide any information they may have about the murder. Local reports say that the victim was shot, tied up and killed after the car they were sitting in was set alight.
Kenard Wade told WINK News that he believes his friend, a transgender woman, was the one found inside the burned car. He also says he believes she was targeted because she was transgender.
Wade, who last saw his friend on Sunday, says he believes he spoke with her the night she died. She told him in text messages that she wanted to leave town, and was worried she could be in trouble if she stayed around.
Investigators have not yet released the name of the victim, saying they are waiting for results from the medical examiner.
But Wade says he believes his best friend was the victim, telling WINK News: “That’s her car. I now that. I know her car.”
A spokesperson for the District 21 Medical Examiner’s Office, which deals with deaths in Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties, did not respond to an inquiry from Metro Weekly as of press time.
The victim has been identified in some social media postings as Bee Love, also known as Bee Love Slater. The group Trans In-Formation wrote on its Facebook page: “Bee Love, a black transgender woman was found burned in her car in Clewiston, Florida. Shot, with her hands tied. This woman was tortured. This is NOT OKAY! “
If Slater is eventually confirmed as the victim, she would become the 18th transgender person killed in the United States this year.
People with information about the crime or believe they may have seen something suspicious are encouraged to contact the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office at 863-674-5600 or, if they desire anonymity, to call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS. Those who provide information leading to an arrest may be eligible to receive a cash award of up to $3,000.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect additional names the victim may have used.