An individual who was found dead, tied up and with multiple slash marks, in a Bronx apartment on September 13 may have been transgender, according to neighbors. The grisly homicide case only emerged after a foul stench permeated through walls in the apartment house for days.
Police have so far reported that a man was found dead with his ankles tied to his waist and slash marks on his wrists and torso at an apartment at 2323 Creston Avenue between Field Place and East 183rd Street in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx.
But the case has been surrounded by confusion over the victim’s gender identity in the wake of a neighbor speculating to Spanish-language news outlet Telemundo that the perpetrator might have thought the victim was a woman, but then learned they were biologically male. The Telemundo report concluded that the victim was possibly transgender and had been noticed around the neighborhood by residents.
When contacted by Gay City News to clarify the victim’s gender identity, a police spokesperson would not provide an answer, saying only, “I don’t have that information.”
On the same day the body was found, cops questioned 37-year-old Charles Votaw, who resides in the same building in Apartment 11A, and on September 14 he was hit with charges of tampering with physical evidence, concealment of a human corpse, and second-degree assault. The NYPD told PIX 11 that Votaw was served in a position with responsiblity “over the building,” but would not confirm he was the super. When contacted by Gay City News, police would not confirm what, if any, role Votaw played in overseeing the building.
An NYPD spokesperson confirmed on September 17 that the victim did not reside in that building, but police would not provide further details because the victim’s family had not yet been contacted.
The Bronx District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for further details regarding the case, including whether or not investigators are looking into potential hate crime charges if the victim was indeed transgender.
Likely based on the Telemundo reporting, advocacy groups have also raised questions about whether the victim was transgender. The New York City Anti-Violence Project, which is dedicated to ending violence against LGBTQ people and those living with HIV/ AIDS, said in a tweet on September 16, “AVP has learned of, and is looking into, a potential homicide of a trans woman in the Bronx.” Later that same day, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project also tweeted, saying, “We are just learning that a trans woman was found killed in an apartment in the Bronx.”
Both AVP and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project further suggested that media reports have misgendered the victim, but to this point it is unclear what evidence exists that the person was transgender and, outside of the anecdotal information presented in the Telemundo report, media outlets would seem to have no specific confirmation that the individual was transgender.
Less than an hour after its initial tweet, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project seemed to backtrack, saying that it “shared information as it was materializing and wish to correct what we initially posted in our first tweet.” What exactly was corrected is not clear, but the organization stated that the New York Post still must be held accountable for misgendering the victim “if indeed this individual was a trans person.”
When reached by email shortly before 6 p.m. on September 16, an AVP spokesperson stated, “We don’t have any confirmation as of yet. The only thing folks are basing this off of is this Spanish news report with an interview with a neighbor that said the victim was trans.”
“That’s all I have right now, we are actively looking into it,” the spokesperson added.