No motive given in transgender killing
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.
The remains of Ally Steinfeld, a transgender teen whose birth name was Joseph Matthew Steinfeld Jr., were found last week.