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Was Transgender Female's Slaying a Hate Crime?

Mar 10, 2011 – 3:54 PM
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David Lohr

David Lohr Senior Crime Reporter

State and federal officials are investigating the slaying of a transgender female in Arkansas who was shot and dragged several hundred feet by a vehicle earlier this week.

"We are trying to determine if the individual's federal civil rights were violated," Special Agent Steve Frazier from Little Rock's FBI office told AOL News. "Part of the civil rights statutes does include hate crimes, and we will be looking at that as a possibility, but right now it is open as a federal civil rights investigation."

The 25-year-old was born a man named Marcal Camero Tye but had been living as a woman for several years, police said.

Her body was found Wednesday morning by a passing motorist on Highway 334 in St. Francis County.

"[Tye] was shot in the head with a .32 [caliber] round and had been dragged underneath the vehicle," Sheriff Bobby May from the St. Francis County Sheriff's Department told AOL News.

Contrary to some media reports, May said authorities do not believe the dragging was intentional.

"Apparently after shooting the individual -- we feel like the victim was shot in front of the vehicle -- the suspect, whoever it may be, thought they might straddle the body, and in the process of taking off, the body got hung up under the vehicle," May said.

The sheriff added: "No, it was not intentional. The cause of death was being shot in the head. You could see where the vehicle had started and had stopped to try to back up to get the body out from under the vehicle. Also, there are burns on the body that look like [they were caused by] the catalytic converter or the muffler."

Authorities have located a witness who reported hearing two gunshots at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. Two .32-caliber shell casings were found at the scene, police said.

Authorities said they have no suspects or people of interest in the homicide.

"[Tye] had no criminal record," May said. "He was well-known in the community, so basically at this point we don't know who is responsible. We are checking out phone records and those sorts of things, so we are in the process of getting that checked out."

Authorities have also made plaster impressions of tire tracks that were found at the shooting scene.

The Center for Artistic Revolution, a gay rights, nonprofit organization in Little Rock, has expressed concerns that Tye's killing could be a hate crime. The organization did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment from AOL News, but a spokeswoman did tell KATV-7 that Arkansas is one of five states that do not have hate crime laws.

"There's a good chance this was a hate-based crime, especially because she was [dragged] behind someone's car. Those aren't things that happen in self-defense. That happens because of hate," organization spokeswoman Jeana Huie told the news station.

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If the killing is a hate crime, Frazier said the state's lack of a hate crime law will be of no consequence.

"Federal law is totally independent of any state law," the FBI agent explained. "The state has jurisdiction for homicide investigations, which are a state offense, but we have jurisdiction whenever a killing may involve a person's civil rights. We have federal jurisdiction totally unrelated to the state charge."

Frazier said the FBI's involvement in the case is ongoing and that he is unable to comment on what, if anything, it has uncovered in the case.

"It is too early in the investigation to comment on that," he said. "We are still looking into it."
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