May 19, 2016 at 11:10 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Suspects in trans murder targeted victim for robbery
Keyonna Monroe Blakeney, Keyonna Blakeney, gay news, Washington Blade

Keyonna Blakeney was stabbed to death. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

One of two suspects charged in the April 16 stabbing death of transgender woman Keyonna Blakeney, 22, was an acquaintance of Blakeney’s and hatched a scheme to meet her at the Red Roof Inn in Rockville, Md., for a date so he and an accomplice could rob her, according to a Montgomery County Police arrest affidavit.

The suspect who allegedly initiated the scheme, Arbra Arnie Bethea, 17, and his alleged accomplice, Keith Christopher Renier, 21, are being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and armed robbery in connection with Blakeney’s murder.

“Bethea arranged to meet with the victim under the guise of a date, all the while intending to rob the victim with the assistance of Renier,” the affidavit says.

The affidavit says Blakeney arranged for an Uber car to pick Bethea up at his residence in Southeast D.C. and drive him to the Red Roof Inn. It says Bethea knew Blakeney through his brother, who had once dated her.

In a statement released at the time of Bethea and Renier’s arrest for the murder on May 10, Montgomery County police said investigators learned that Blakeney and several acquaintances were renting rooms at the Red Roof Inn to engage in prostitution.

“Bethea made a series of calls to the victim using Renier’s cell phone just prior to arriving at the Red Roof Inn,” the affidavit says. “Once arriving at the Red Roof Inn, Bethea and Renier met with the victim in Room #174. When the robbery was announced, a struggle ensued resulting in the victim being repeatedly stabbed,” it says.

“Bethea and Renier then fled on foot with the victim’s cell phone and cash,” the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, Bethea and Renier then returned to Bethea’s residence at 4215 East Capitol St., Apt. 104, in Southeast D.C., with “Renier suffering from an injury to his left hand sustained in the struggle with the victim.”

It adds, “Both Bethea and Renier then confessed to family members that they killed the victim. Renier subsequently disposed of his cell phone and obtained a new cell phone.”

The affidavit says a major break in the case came when a confidential source came forward and identified Bethea and Renier as the suspects in the murder. It says investigators developed additional evidence linking the two men to the murder through cell phone records and records from and interviews with the Uber driver.

Transgender activists condemned the murder as yet another in a long list of murders of transgender people over the past several years throughout the U.S., including the D.C. area.

“I hope these arrests send a message to all those who would commit heinous crimes against trans community members that these acts of violence will not go unpunished,” said trans rights activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter, who serves as chief operating officer of D.C.’s Casa Ruby community center.

Renier, who police said was a resident of the 4200 block of Fort Dupont Terrace in Southeast D.C., and Bethea were arrested in D.C. They subsequently waived their right to an extradition hearing and were taken to Montgomery County, where a judge earlier this week ordered them held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for June 10.

Meanwhile court records in D.C. show that Renier was arrested at the Archives Metro station in downtown Washington on Feb. 20, 2016 on misdemeanor charges related to allegations that he threatened to stab a woman with whom he had a domestic dispute and several bystanders on the station platform.

D.C. Superior Court records show he was initially charged with misdemeanor assault with a dangerous weapon, attempted threats to do bodily harm, and possession of a prohibited weapon (a folding knife). According to the records, Renier pleaded guilty to reduced charges as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors on April 11.

The records show he was sentenced under the D.C. Youth Act to a suspended 90-day jail term and probation on April 25 – five days after he and Bethea allegedly fatally stabbed Blakeney at the Red Roof Inn in Rockville. As a condition for probation, Superior Court Judge Rhonda Reid Winston ordered that he attend anger management classes and domestic violence counseling.

According to Prince George’s County court records, Renier was arrested on March 5, 2016 for nine separate driving related offenses that allegedly occurred at the same location in Temple Hills, Md. Among them were charges of “negligent driving vehicle in careless and imprudent manner endangering property, life and person” and “participating as timekeeper in speed contest on highway.”

The records show that all of the charges were dropped on May 9, one day before he and Bethea were arrested on the murder charges.

The public records don’t say why the charges were dismissed, but a spokesperson for the P.G. County State’s Attorney’s office said that type of dismissal sometimes happens when the police officer who filed the charges doesn’t show up in court for a scheduled hearing or trial.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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