Murdered for Being Transgender: Witnesses Saw Her Stabbed at Vigil, But No One Has Been Arrested
To those that knew her, Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears was a fashionable transgender businesswoman who lit up the room and loved to give back to her community.
But on July 28, Rhone-Spears, 34, was killed while attending the vigil of murder victim in her home town of Portland. She and one other person were stabbed when the vigil moved to a residence with 20 to 30 people in attendance, according to a Portland police statement.
Despite "multiple witnesses" being present, police said they "encountered hostility and a lack of cooperation." To this day, no arrests have been made in Rhone-Spears' death.
In an interview with PEOPLE, Rhone-Spears' family says they believe their sister was targeted for being transgender. The killing made Rhone-Spears one of at least 28 transgender homicides so far in 2020, according to data from the National Center for Transgender Equality — up from a previous peak of 26 in 2019.
Her family says despite being bullied and attacked all her life, she was nonetheless a source of joy to her loved ones who always helped others in need.
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Before she died, Rhone-Spears, who was one of 10 siblings, owned a boutique clothing line and volunteered at a local nonprofit where she helped kids transition out of foster care.
"She went through a lot in her childhood growing up, so I believe with other kids she just wanted them to be happy and not have to deal with what she had to deal with," says sister Nicola Spears. "She always wanted to make the kids happy and she always wanted the kids to like her."
Her family says they want to continue her legacy and start a foundation to help pay for LGBTQ+ identifying teenagers go to college.
They're also hoping for justice in her killing.
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"I don't think that people should be made to feel just because a person has different sex or different sexual preference, that you can go and hurt them, and then get away with it," Nicola Spears says. "Her life is gone. There's a life gone that's never coming back. It's so unfair and we just want to see justice done. We want an arrest made and those people held accountable for what they have done."
Anyone with information in Rhone-Spears' killing is urged to contact Detective Brad Clifton of the Portland police at 503.823.0696 or Brad.Clifton@portlandoregon.gov, or Detective Mike Greenlee at 503.823.0871 or Michael.Greenlee@portlandoregon.gov.