Earlier this month in Cabool, Missouri, Ally Lee Steinfeld, a 17-year-old transgender girl, was reported missing by her family. Tragically, Steinfeld's remains were found last week and four people were arrested for alleged involvement in her murder. In the wake of her reportedly brutal death, many are speculating whether her murder was a hate crime, even though police have reportedly thus far dismissed that possibility.
Steinfeld was reportedly living in the small town of Cabool, located in the Ozarks, with three roommates. According to The Washington Post, Steinfeld came out as transgender earlier this year. In June, she posted a photo of herself on Instagram with the caption: “I am proud to be me I am proud to be trans I am beautiful I don’t care what people think.”
Steinfeld was reported missing earlier this month., Her remains were found last week and her three roommates — one of whom was reportedly Steinfeld's girlfriend — were charged with her alleged murder. A fourth suspect was also charged with alleged abandonment of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
Steinfeld's death was reportedly incredibly brutal. One of the suspects reportedly admitted to at first trying to poison the teen and then stabbing her, saying he had gouged out her eyes and stabbed her in the genitals. Three of the suspects also allegedly burned Steinfeld's body after her death.
Authorities have not characterized Steinfeld's death as a hate crime. According to the Post, both Sheriff James Sigman and prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. have said that Steinfeld's gender identity did not serve as a motive for the crime, with Stevens saying, “I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters ... That is a hate crime in itself.” Sigman also did not classify Steinfeld's alleged homicide a hate crime in a Facebook post on the Texas County Sheriff's page, writing, “As usual in homicide cases it is hard to make (sense) of the reason or figure out why people do the things that they do.”
However, many members of the public as well as many advocates for the LGBTQ community are not convinced that Steinfeld's gender identity did not play a role in her death — and want police to classify her alleged murder as a hate crime.
Indeed, several social media users commented on the aforementioned Texas County Sheriff's recent Facebook post about the homicide. One woman stated that it was hard to believe that the department was not classifying Steinfeld's murder as a hate crime, while another noted she believes that the murder "was a hate crime and should be charged as such."
Chris Sgro, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Post that Steinfeld was the 21st known transgender person killed this year in the United States. He also implied that Steinfeld's death was motivated by her gender identity:
This violence, often motivated by hatred, must come to an end ... We will continue to mourn Ally and fight back against transphobia and anti-trans violence.
Sadly, transgender homicides appear to be on the rise in America. As the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported, last year, advocates tracked the deaths of at least 22 transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence — the most ever recorded. As previously mentioned, there have been 21 recorded homicides of transgender individuals, 10 months into 2017. Some victims in 2016 were killed directly as a result of anti-transgender bias, while others were killed because, due to anti-transgender bias, they were forced into circumstances that put their lives at risk (like homelessness).
Steinfeld's death is an utterly senseless and awful tragedy and her family can certainly use support in this trying time. If you wish to help her family with funeral and other related expenses, there is a GoFundMe page that has been set up to help the Steinfeld family with funeral expenses. The fund has already surpassed its goal of $1,500, raising more than twice that amount in five days. But as long as the campaign is open to donations, it's likely that that number will continue to rise, and the Steinfeld family could probably use as much support as possible during this time.