Transgender woman found brutally murdered in Missouri. Are police mishandling the case?

Aerrion Burnett. Via Facebook

Heartbreaking news out of Missouri: A passer-by discovered the body of Aerrion Burnett, a 37-year-old African-American transwoman, shot to death in a field in Independence, a suburb of Kansas City. Police have yet to make any progress in the case.

Gay City News reports that Burnett’s body was discovered on September 19. Police immediately ruled her death a homicide, though investigators have not announced any progress in the case since.

“We don’t have anything new,” a police spokesperson told Gay City News. “A detective is working non-stop on this one. It’s rare for us to have an unsolved homicide.”

Related: Suspect identified in connection with the murder of transgender woman Dominique Fells

The lack of developments in the case has begun to invite scrutiny of law enforcement, and raise questions about the urgency with which the Independence police have treated the case. Investigators established that Burnett spent the evening of September 18 with friends. 12 hours later her body was discovered. Police have not announced any clues as to her whereabouts during that 12 hour period. Furthermore, social media posts by police detailing Burnett’s death repeatedly deadnamed her. Public outcry prompted police to apologize, though subsequent posts also repeated the deadnaming of Ms. Burnett.

Meanwhile, friends and family of Aerrion Burnett have gone into mourning. “She was a goddess,” Burnett’s friend, Korea Kelly said. “If you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”

The murder of Aerrion Burnett is just the latest in a series of more than a dozen killings of transgender women in the United States in 2020. Most of those dead were also women of color. This May, another transgender woman, Nina Pop, was found dead in her southern Missouri home. Police arrested a suspect in the case within 24 hours.

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