Jadae Peterson and Remy Fennell were at least the 14th and 15th violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming persons in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign
Jaida Peterson, Remy Fennel
Jaida Peterson, at left, and Remy Fennell
| Credit: Human Rights Campaign (2)

Two transgender women found dead by gunshot 11 days apart led police in North Carolina to connect the killings and arrest two men on murder charges.

"No one deserved that," Barbara Prescott, the godsister of victim Remy Fennell, told Charlotte TV station WBTV.

Fennell, 28, was found April 15 in a room at the Sleep Inn. Her death followed the killing of Jadae Peterson, 29, whose body was found April 4 in a room at the Quality Inn.

The two are at least the 14th and 15th violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming persons in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

"The loss of two Black transgender women in the last two weeks, in the same city, is devastating," Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement. "It's never been more important for everyone — from community members to those at all levels of government — to speak out, affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter and take action to bring this violence to an end."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said at a news conference that circumstances of the second killing "were sufficient to start raising concerns immediately," according to CMPD Lt. Bryan Crum. "As we continued pressing through the day, gathering evidence and receiving information, we realized there was more and more similarities" connecting the two.

Those connections led to the arrests of Dontarius Long, 22, and Joel Brewer, 33, on charges of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Brewer also is charged with possession of firearm by a felon.

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Both are currently in the Mecklenburg County jail, according to online records, which do not indicate whether either has entered a plea or secured an attorney to speak on their behalf.

"I believe we were able to get two very dangerous criminals off the street," said police Chief Johnny Jennings.

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Authorities did not reveal a motive. "As far as what motives are, certainly there's concerning similarities between the two, but we're still really at a position where we're trying to understand the who, and now we're very slowly breaking it down to understand the why," said Crum.

"I can tell you that our investigation has advanced to the point where I feel confident in telling you there is no one else at large that was a part of this," he said. "These two individuals, and these two individuals alone, are responsible for Jadae and Remy's murder."

He said both victims were involved in sex work, and it's believed that's how they connected with the suspects. "If hate crime charges are appropriate," he added, "we'll absolutely pursue those."

Fennell, who styled hair under the name Remy Kreations, "was a vibrant young transgender woman who was just trying to make it & was doing it," her aunt wrote on Facebook, reports PGHLesbian. "She started her own business, graduated from cosmetology school … She has left her mark on the hair industry. Don't be ashamed of a family member or friend just because they identify themselves [differently], just hold them & tell them it's okay."

Prescott said Fennell "was a very bold person, very outspoken. She was also lovable, everybody loved her in the community in Virginia," where she lived prior to moving to North Carolina.

"She wanted to make her dreams come true, she wanted to own her own shop, she even had her own products that she was trying to come up with," Prescott said.

"Everyone wants to be accepted, you know what I'm saying?," she said. "And nobody's understanding that the LGBT community is our community as well."