THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED HERE.
The stepfather and sister of a transgender woman stabbed to death at a Northeast D.C. bus stop last February are inviting members of the LGBT community to participate in a memorial remembrance for Deoni Jones on Saturday, Feb. 2, to commemorate the anniversary of her death.
Jones’ family members, who refer to her by her birth name JaParker, told more than 200 people who turned out for a vigil at the site of the murder days after the incident took place that they fully accepted her as a transgender woman and treated her as a cherished member of the family.
“We want to have this event to not only honor JaParker, but to also shine light on the fact that so often members of our society who are GLBT face violence in their daily lives simply because of who they are, and that as a civilized society we will not tolerate violence against the GLBT community,” said Alvin Bethea, Jones’ stepfather.
“At this memorial we will have prayer, songs, and statements from the community,” Bethea said in an email to the Blade.
He said Jones’ sister, JuDean Jones, and other family members and friends were helping to organize the memorial remembrance.
The event is scheduled to take place 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2, at East Capitol Street and Sycamore Street, N.E., at the site of the Metro bus stop where police say Jones was stabbed while sitting on a bench waiting for a bus.
Through the help of witnesses and nearby residents, D.C. police charged 55-year-old Gary Niles Montgomery with second-degree murder while armed in connection with Jones’ death eight days after the murder took place. In November, a D.C. Superior Court grand jury indicted Montgomery on a charge of first-degree murder while armed.
He has been held in jail without bond since the time of his arrest in February 2012.
A police arrest affidavit says a video surveillance camera which recorded the murder shows a male assailant taking Jones’ purse immediately after stabbing her in the face. The affidavit says witnesses identified the person in the video as Montgomery.
Although the taking of the purse indicates the motive of the attack was robbery, police said they have not ruled out the possibility that Jones was targeted because of her status as a transgender person.
However, Bethea told the Blade that he and his family believe Jones’ murder was a hate crime and that police and prosecutors should have classified it as a hate crime, which would give a judge authority to hand down a more stringent or “enhanced” sentence if Montgomery is convicted.
“We believe that it is clear in the video footage of this murder that the elements of a hate crime are present and that hate crime enhancement papers should be served upon this individual,” Bethea said in a email.
He said the family has urged the U.S. Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, to list the murder as a hate crime.
“[W]e are considering filing a complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division seeking redress of [this] error,” Bethea said in his email.
According to court records, on March 23, Montgomery was declared competent to stand trial following a court ordered mental evaluation. He pleaded not guilty on Nov. 9, two days after the grand jury indicted him on the first-degree murder while armed charge. During a court hearing on Nov. 30, Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin scheduled a trial date for June 10.
Court records show that questions surrounding Montgomery’s metal health surfaced in January, prompting Morin to order “24 hour forensic screening” for Montgomery “based on the representations of defense counsel.”
Morin scheduled a mental observation hearing for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, to assess Montgomery’s condition.
Court records show Morin denied at least two requests by Montgomery’s attorneys that he be released from jail while awaiting trial. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office opposed the requests for Montgomery’s release.
D.C. Homicide Watch, a blog that reports on all murder cases in the city, reported that defense attorney Colle Latin argued in a motion that prosecutors failed to demonstrate that Montgomery would be a risk to the community or of fleeing the area if released. Latin also argued that the video, which is fuzzy in quality, doesn’t clearly identify Montgomery as the person who stabbed Jones.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.