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.
The memorial was scheduled to take place four days after a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered a 56-year-old man arrested for the murder last Feb. 10 transferred from jail, where he was awaiting trial, to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for mental observation.
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.
The event is scheduled to take place at 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 then 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.
Until the time of his transfer this week to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, he had been held in jail without bond since the time of his arrest in February 2012.
A police arrest affidavit says a video surveillance camera that 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 an 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 mental health surfaced in January, prompting Morin to order “24 hour forensic screening” for Montgomery “based on the representations of defense counsel.”
During a court hearing on Tuesday, Morin ordered that Montgomery be transferred to St. Elizabeth’s to undergo a “full competency examination” at the recommendation of a psychiatrist, court records show. The records show Morin vacated the June 10 trial date and scheduled a follow-up mental observation hearing for April 5 to assess Montgomery’s ability to stand trial.
Court records show that at a previous hearing 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.
William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the office doesn’t comment on pending criminal cases.
This is an update of a story published earlier this week, here.