Discovered naked, battered and with a shot through her head, Ashley Santiago Ocasio is the latest transgender woman to have died following a brutal attack.
Found dead in the her home in Corozal in Puerto Rico, Ashley was a 31 year old woman who loved fashion and died it seems because of her gender identity, something that has reignited calls for Puerto Rico to invoke a 2002 hate crime law covering crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A statute until now it has chosen to ignore.
Stating that there were at least five instances in the last five months when the statute could have been used, Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has called for it be invoked in this case saying:
”The law is very clear and we’re asking authorities to investigate without prejudice,”
Evidence that points to this murder being a hate crime is focused on the horrific crime scene that police were confronted with at her home. Coming across a huge amount of blood across the the walls and floor of the flat it was at first believed she had been stabbed, something which was later discovered not to be true, but does indicate excessive violence, something which often occurs with hate crime.
The officer in charge of the case, Sgt. Luis R. Castro, said that the case would be seen as a hate crime if the evidence pointed to this, but with no announced suspects or autopsy results as of yet there was no indication this would occur any time soon. Activists are however committed to keeping the case in the public eye and see the hate crimes statute invoked, something which failed to happen in the case of gay teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado who was decapitated and partially burned after his killer discovered he was a man and not a woman.
The case of Santiago Ocasio has not only pushed the issue of the hate crimes statute into the public eye in Puerto Rico, but also that of the transgender community, a section of society often ignored and misrepresented, something seen following her murder with local media referring to Ashley as a man.
Speaking about the death of her daughter, who had begun gender reassignment surgery, to the Primera Hora, Carmen Ocasio said she couldn’t understand why Ashley had been murdered, stating:
”I lost my daughter,”
”I’m in shock. Why would someone kill Ashley, why?”
A memorial service took place on Friday in Corozal where dozens gathered wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Santiago’s image.