No mo­tive given in trans­gen­der killing

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jackie Re­hwald

Mis­souri au­thor­i­ties say they don’t be­lieve the killing of a trans­gen­der teen was mo­ti­vated by the 17-year-old’s gen­der iden­tity, de­spite the hor­rific de­tails of the grue­some death.

The burned re­mains of Ally Ste­in­feld, born Joseph Matthew Ste­in­feld, were found last week near a mo­bile home just north of Ca­bool in south­ern Mis­souri.

Two young women, Bri­ana Calderas, 24, and Isis Schauer, 18, told au­thor­i­ties they helped burn Ste­in­feld’s body af­ter 18year-old An­drew Vrba gouged out Ste­in­feld’s eyes, re­peat­edly stabbed the teen — in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple times in the gen­i­tals — and bragged about the killing ear­lier this month, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Vrba told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he ini­tially tried to poi­son Ste­in­field, then de­scribed how he stabbed Ste­in­feld in the liv­ing room of Calderas’ mo­bile home, ac­cord­ing to a prob­a­ble cause state­ment.

How­ever, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports that Texas County Pros­e­cu­tor Parke Stevens Jr. and Sher­iff James Sig­man both say the teen’s gen­der iden­tity wasn’t a mo­ti­va­tor in the killing.

No mo­tive is given in the prob­a­ble cause state­ment. All three are charged with first-de­gree mur­der, armed crim­i­nal ac­tion and aban­don­ment of a corpse.

“I would say mur­der in the first-de­gree is all that mat­ters,” Stevens Jr. told the AP. “That is a hate crime in it­self.”

Mis­souri law al­lows cer­tain low-level felonies and se­ri­ous mis­de­meanors to be charged as hate of­fenses, if pros­e­cu­tors be­lieve an of­fender was mo­ti­vated be­cause of race, color, re­li­gion, na­tional ori­gin, sex, sex­ual ori- en­ta­tion or dis­abil­ity of the vic­tim or vic­tims. In that case, there can be “en­hanced penal­ties for cer­tain of­fenses.”

The charges filed against those ac­cused in Ste­in­feld’s killing are not cov­ered by the hate of­fense statute — first-de­gree mur­der al­ready car­ries more sig­nif­i­cant penal­ties than a hate of­fense.

Ste­in­feld iden­ti­fied as a male-to-fe­male trans­gen­der les­bian on so­cial me­dia and spoke with her sis­ter, Ashleigh Boswell, about be­ing trans­gen­der.

Boswell said Ste­in­field had been dat­ing Calderas for about three weeks and seemed happy. The last time Boswell spoke with Ste­in­field was on Sept. 1. Boswell said Ste­in­field said she was trou­ble but didn’t go into de­tails.

“We hon­estly don’t un­der­stand why they done it,” Boswell said. “It just don’t make any sense.”

Au­thor­i­ties say the three sus­pects burned Ste­in­feld’s body, placed some of the bones into a garbage bag and put the bag in the chicken coop. Calderas ad­mit­ted help­ing burn the body and led au­thor­i­ties to the knife used in the killing, ac­cord­ing to the prob­a­ble cause state­ment.

A fourth per­son, James T. Grigsby, has been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with Ste­in­feld’s death.

AP

The re­mains of Ally Ste­in­feld, a trans­gen­der teen whose birth name was Joseph Matthew Ste­in­feld Jr., were found last week.

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