A transgender woman from Cincinnati was shot to death earlier this week in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong.
On Tuesday, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a dead body in Liberty Township, Ohio. The body was later identified as Riah Milton, a 25-year-old home health aide who was studying at the University of Cincinnati.
Police say that Milton was killed after three people lured her to Liberty Township in an effort to steal her car. But the robbery went wrong, with Milton being shot multiple times.
Police later arrested 18-year-old Kaleb Marshall Tooson and an unnamed 14-year-old girl in connection with Milton’s murder.
Tooson faces charges of murder and aggravated robbery. The minor was charged with complicity to aggravated robbery, complicity to murder, and tampering with evidence.
Police also issued a warrant for 25-year-old Tyree Jeffrey Cross, who remains at large. He is being charged with complicity to murder, complicity to aggravated robbery, and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, reports Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT.
Ohio does not have a hate crime statute that includes sexual orientation or gender identity, meaning the suspects will not face any additional jail time or penalties if found guilty of the charges against them.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said, in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference, that he does not believe Milton was targeted because she was transgender.
The Sheriff’s Office came under intense criticism from LGBTQ people for misgendering Milton. But a police spokesperson told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Milton’s parents had referred to her as their “son.”
Milton’s birth mother, Tracey Milton, who did not raise her, acknowledged Milton was a transgender woman who loved traveling and being outside, and was outgoing, helpful, and considerate of others.
Ariel Mary Ann, Milton’s birth sister — who is also transgender — says she had been in and out of contact with her sister over the years. She said she wants Milton to be remembered for the way she lived her life.
“The way to honor Riah is to honor her in death the way that she was honored in life,” Mary Ann told the Enquirer.
So far, 12 transgender people in the United States have been killed this year, which is on pace to march the 26 transgender people killed violently last year. Of those 2019 killings, the majority were black transgender women.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed dismay at Milton’s killing and the killing of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells just a day before Milton’s killing.
“The murder of Black trans women is a crisis,” Warren tweeted. “Say their names: Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells and Riah Milton.”
The murder of Black trans women is a crisis.
Say their names: Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton. https://t.co/j5USadR2CS
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 12, 2020
The Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality also released statements in response to Milton and Fells’ deaths.
“Black Trans Lives Matter,” Tori Cooper, HRC’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement. “In the same week countless people across the globe stand up for racial injustice, in the same week we honor the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, in the same week a billionaire author spouts transphobic rhetoric to millions — in this same week, we have lost two more Black transgender women to the same fate most of us worry about every day.”
Cooper added: “Say their names. Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells. Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells. Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Continue to say the names of every transgender and gender non-conforming person stolen from this Earth. Don’t wait until we are all gone to speak up. This fight belongs to us all.”
“We must shine a bright line on the increasing level of violence face by transgender people, and particularly Black transgender women,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, NCTE’s deputy executive director, said in a statement. “For every headline we see, we know that there are countless incidents of violence that go unreported because Black transgender people are afraid to go to the police. Dominique’s life mattered. Riah’s life mattered. We need to say their names and remember their lives.”
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