A 24-year-old Black transgender woman was found dead in a canal in Port Arthur, Texas, on March 18, the Port Arthur Police Department told Gay City News.
Aidelen Evans was a homeless woman from Beaumont, Texas, which is approximately 20 miles from the canal in Port Arthur — at 3700 block of Savannah Avenue — where her body was discovered, police said in a statement on Facebook. Michael Hebert, an investigator with the Port Arthur Police Department, said this makes the investigation even more challenging to solve.
“She was not from our city, so that puts us in a different realm,” said Hebert, who noted that authorities know many of the homeless individuals in the area. “We weren’t familiar with this individual at all.”
He said the police have spoken with Beaumont authorities and are trying to locate the victims’ friends and possible enemies. So far, police are investigating Evan’s death as “suspicious,” but they say it’s still too early to know whether she was targeted because of her trans status.
“We’re still in the preliminary phase of this investigation,” Hebert said.
When Gay City News asked the department to clarify the evidence suggesting that the incident is “suspicious,” Herbert declined to release that information, citing that it would be “detrimental” to the case.
“It’s such a fluid investigation right now,” he said. “We are very cautious with the things that we say and [I] also want to be very sensitive to the family members of the deceased.”
Evan’s family has been notified about the death and helped identify the body to authorities. The department has not released information about the victim’s injuries, and they are still waiting for an autopsy report from the state’s medical examiner. No arrests have been made thus far, and no suspects have been identified.
Like many trans victims of violence, Evans was misgendered by police and media outlets, which advocates said delayed the community from identifying her remains. When Gay City News asked the authorities to respond to the victim being misgendered in initial reports, they declined to answer, citing a “multitude of reasons why.”
After advocates learned about her death, community official Dee Dee Watters held a candlelight vigil on March 28 to honor the victims’ life. In a statement, Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBTQ civil rights group, denounced the media and police’s response to the incident.
“We grieve the loss of Aidelen Evan’s life. She was young with what should have been decades of life ahead of her,” Kirby York said in a written statement. “Time after time, local law enforcement and subsequently news reporters take away the opportunity for loved ones and community members to be able to bury their loved ones with dignity after experiencing some of the most horrific ways to die.”
The organization also called on lawmakers to make it easier for trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people to change their name and gender markers on identification documents so activists can quickly claim members within the community.
“We demand that those who took jobs to protect and inform the public do so for everyone — regardless of their chosen name and despite their legal name,” Kirby York added. “Aidelen was one of the many members of our community experiencing homelessness – another factor that likely resulted in her dehumanizing treatment in life and death. Our leaders must do better. Our communities must do better.”
Evan’s case contributes to a rising death toll of transgender Americans. A transgender woman of color, Rayanna Pardo, was struck and killed on March 26. Others include Diamond “Kyree” Sanders, a Black transgender woman killed in Cincinnati on March 3; Jenna Franks of North Carolina, Jeffrey “JJ” Bright and Jasmine Cannady of Pennslyvania; Chyna Carrillo, a Latinx trans woman killed on February 18; Tyianna Alexander of Chicago; Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín of Puerto Rico; Bianca “Muffin” Bankz of Atlanta; Dominique Jackson of Mississippi; Fifty Bandz of Louisiana; and Alexus Braxton of Miami.