Pastor Accused of Murdering Transgender Woman: 'Her Smile Could Brighten a Room'
A Michigan pastor has been accused of murdering a transgender woman who was found dead in Detroit last week, PEOPLE confirms.
Albert Weathers, 46, is charged with open murder and the use of a firearm in the slaying of 36-year-old Kelly Stough. A police officer discovered her body on Friday, the Detroit News reports.
Authorities have said the woman’s gender identity played a role in her death but declined to elaborate until a court hearing.
According to local TV station WXYZ7, Weathers allegedly fled the scene and clocked in at his job at the Great Lakes Water Authority. Then, authorities believe, he called police an hour after the shooting to say that someone had tried to rob him and he’d shot someone.
However, after an investigation, authorities arrested Weathers, who also pastors the Logos Baptist Church in Detroit where he reportedly has been a member for 20 years.
Weathers, who lives in Sterling Heights, was arraigned Monday and his bond was set at $1 million. He has not yet entered a plea.
His attorney David Cripps did not return PEOPLE’s call for comment but told WXYZ that his client maintains his innocence and they would vigorously defend against the charges. Cripps said he could not discuss Stough’s gender identity until its connection was further explained by prosecutors.
A probable cause conference has been scheduled for Dec. 20.
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Loved ones have said Stough, an aspiring fashion designer, was unbowed by the discrimination she faced.
“[She] never let it get her down,” her mom told the News. “She never became bitter. ‘You’re not going to make me feel any less than who I am.’ I respected her so much for that.”
“Her laugh and her smile could brighten up a room,” recalled friend Kecha Jackson. “She was a loving, caring person.”
Activists and human rights groups have also spoken out in the wake of Stough’s death.
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“We must listen to her words and address the factors that continue to foster an epidemic of violence targeting transgender people, particularly transgender women of color,” officials with the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. “It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to help cover Stough’s funeral expenses.