Merci "Mack" Richey was one of at least 28 transgender women killed this year

By Wendy Grossman Kantor
August 23, 2020 09:59 AM

Merci “Mack” Richey was the type of woman who would pull over in a parking lot and start dancing. The 22-year-old loved shopping and going on Facebook Live in swimming pools.

"She was the sunshine in your bad day,” says her 27-year-old sister Tyeshia Rickett.

On June 30, Richey, a Dallas woman who worked at Luby’s Cafeteria and lived with her mother, was allegedly murdered by a man she'd known since middle school.

“He knew her since she was Michael,” Rickett says.

Last year, it was declared an epidemic of violence after 26 transgender women were murdered. Even more have died so far this year -- to date, Richey is one of 28 trans women who have been killed, according to the Transgender Equality Center.

Merci “Mack” Richey
Merci Mack

“There are murders every few weeks,” says Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “This isn’t going to be it for the year. Trans people are really at risk this year, more than previous years. They just are.”

For more on the surge of violence impacting the transgender community, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

Richey enjoyed going roller skating with her family, and loved taking her nieces and nephews out for ice cream – even when their mothers said no. She also wanted to be a mom.

A week after her death, Angelo Walker, 20, was arrested and charged with her murder. He's now awaiting trial.

Rickett wants to know why her sister was killed. “I dream about it every day,” she says. "I want to know her last words."

She also believes her sister may have sensed that something would happen to her. “She always told us if anything ever happened to her, she’d beg for her life. I know she begged. And I know she was scared. I just feel like I was there – but I wasn’t."

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

Rickett absolutely considers her sister’s death a hate crime.

“He over-killed her,” she says. “He shot her 10 times. Three times is enough. But you stood over her. And you shot her to death. … You hated her. For somebody to stand over you and shoot you 10 times, they hate you.”

She says she misses her sister and often feels her presence.

“I light a candle and her shadow will be on the wall,” Rickett says. “She visits us.”

Rickett wants to warn other trans women of color.

“This is a cold, dangerous, disrespectful world,” she says. “Please be careful.”