A Navy sailor from New Orleans has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of stabbing and slashing a transgender woman 119 times in a coastal Mississippi hotel room.
Dwanya Hickerson, 20, is charged with the capital murder of 25-year-old Dee Whigham, from Shubuta Mississippi: a recently graduated nurse at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg.
Hickerson was in a training class at Keesler Air Force Base when Whigham was killed on July 23 in St Martin, WLOX-TV and The Sun Herald reported.
Whigham had originally come to the coast for the 7th Annual Gulf Coast Black Rodeo. Her friends later found her body cut up in their shared Best Western hotel room.
Authorities said the shower was running when they arrived and blood was still in it. Most of the stab wounds were to Whigham’s face and her throat had been slashed three times, according to investigators.
Hickerson as identified as a suspect after surveillance video of a man leaving the room with his shirt around his neck was released.
The murder sparked anger among the LGBT community.
‘The violence that transgender women of color face is rooted in racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia,’ Emily Waters, senior manager of National Research and Policy at NCAVP, told the Guardian.
‘We need to notice how these biases and violence are present in all of our everyday environments, and then work to change them.’
In the hours after her death, Whigham’s aunt Shamela Walker told the Guardian: ‘We just don’t understand how something so bad can happen to such a sweet person.
‘She loved everyone.’
Hickerson entered the not guilty plea Thursday in state court in Pascagoula. He is being held without bond.