Transgender activist Jahaira DeAlto "touched the lives of everyone around her with her passion, drive, humanity, humor, and fierce vision"

By Jeff Truesdell
May 04, 2021 02:32 PM
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Jahaira DeAlto
Jahaira DeAlto
| Credit: Facebook

A transgender activist who worked with a domestic abuse program and was hosting a man and his family in a Boston home Sunday died after the man allegedly stabbed her and his wife to death in front of two children, authorities said.

No motive was released for the killings of the activist, 42-year-old Jahaira DeAlto, or the man's wife, 28-year-old Fatima Yasin, by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, which confirmed the slayings.

The suspect, 35-year-old Marcus Chavis, of Dorchester, was ordered held Monday without bail.

The two young children present at the time of the slayings were physically unharmed, the attorney's office said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

DeAlto was mourned "as a colleague, activist and survivor who touched the lives of everyone around her with her passion, drive, humanity, humor, and fierce vision" in a Facebook post by the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which offers counseling, emergency shelter and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

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"Her impact on the community was profound and her presence will be missed by many," says the post, which quoted DeAlto "in her own words" from a post DeAlto wrote for Mother's Day last year.

"I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms," DeAlto wrote. "I cherished what they discarded. I took on earthly assignments for moms who'd earned their Heavenly reward. For their babies who still needed raising. I did that. And I'm still doing that. And I'll keep doing that. Because I will never know what seeing my DNA reflected in another's eyes could look like, but I know what gratitude in the eyes of a young person who finally feels seen looks like. And for me, that's enough."

At least 19 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed so far in 2021, according to the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign, which tracked a record of at least 44 such fatalities last year.

According to the state attorney's office, Chavis called 911 shortly before 12:30 p.m. Sunday to report that he'd allegedly stabbed his wife.

Officers who responded to the building where Chavis, Yasmin and two children resided with DeAlto in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood encountered a bloody Chavis at the front entrance, said prosecutors. The two children were inside.

The two women were found in separate bedrooms, "each suffering from serious stab wounds to the neck," and later died, the state attorney's office reported.

Marcus Chavis
Marcus Chavis
| Credit: WBZ

Officers also located a dog with a stab wound in the same bedroom as DeAlto. The dog was taken for treatment.

Chavis was arraigned on two counts of murder and one count of animal cruelty. An attorney for him was not immediately identified.

DeAlto's work as an activist included a YouTube platform, JahairasMission, where she posted numerous videos on transgender rights, as well as a 2019 keynote speech where she was honored at a conference of the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance.

Out magazine described DeAlto as "a legend" in the ballroom community, a formerly underground gay and trans community of dance competitions and strong mentors where DeAlto was a member of Boston's House of Balenciaga.

The ballroom community is the backdrop to the award-winning FX drama Pose, which stars actor Indya Moore, who responded to DeAlato's killing by sharing an Instagram post written by Marquise Vilsón Balenciaga: "Jahairah was someone one we all loved dearly and was murdered yesterday. Ballroom isn't simply entertainment ... it's our culture, our lives, our families and our real life stories."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.