The death of a Black transgender woman whose body was found in a torched car in South Florida last week is being investigated as a homicide and possible hate crime, authorities said.
The body of Bee Love Slater, a 23-year-old trans woman, was found in a burned-out car on Sept. 4 in Clewiston. Her remains were so badly burned that it took investigators several days to identify her by dental records.
The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death as a homicide, telling NBC-2 it’s one of the most brutal killings the county has ever seen. Investigators said they had no suspects.
“We can’t say it’s a hate crime yet because we don’t know what the motive was,” sheriff’s Capt. Susan Harrelle told ABC-7.
Harrelle told the Miami Herald there was no evidence Slater was bound and shot before the car was set ablaze, as some reports said. The sheriff’s office said earlier that the body was “burned beyond recognition,” according to The Palm Beach Post.
Slater had been receiving threatening messages on Facebook in the days before she was killed, her friend, Antorris Williams, told Out Magazine.
Slater “posted messages saying she felt as if people were after her to attack and hurt her and she had a conversation with one of her best friends the day she was murdered saying she wanted to leave” the area, Williams said.
Slater is the 18th known transgender woman of color to be killed in the U.S. this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimates.
“Our society needs to work to ensure transpeople can live without fear,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida wrote on Facebook in reaction to Slater’s death.
Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality, told the Miami Herald it’s “frustrating” and “heartbreaking” to repeatedly witness “the absolute slaughter of transgender people.”
Violence against the trans community reached an all-time high in 2017, according to a Human Rights Campaign report. In 2018, at least 26 transgender people were killed, the majority of them trans women of color.
Multiple outlets, including NBC-2 and ABC-7, identified Slater by her dead name ― her given name before she identified as a woman ― citing information from the sheriff’s office.