CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced the arrest of two individuals in the homicides of two transgender women who were shot to death in hotel rooms less than two weeks apart.
Dontarius Long and Joel Brewer were arrested in Union County April 16, CMPD announced in a press conference later that same day.
Both men have been charged with murder, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Multiple agencies worked together in the arrests, including CMPD, the FBI, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Marshville Police Department.
Officers say no other individuals are believed to have been involved, and have not yet said if this is a hate crime.
The first homicide happened at the Quality Inn off Queen City Drive on April 4. The woman in this case was identified as 29-year-old Jaida Peterson.
The second was reported April 15 at the Sleep Inn on North Tryon Street. Police identified the woman as 28-year-old Remy Fennell.
Both victims were identified as sex workers.
“This is a pandemic in our community. This trans individuals are somebody’s children, grandchild. We should care that they’re being wiped out,” said Jermaine Nakia Lee, program director for State of Emergency.
The similarities of the cases were announced during a press conference held April 15. Both men involved were arrested the next day.
“Certainly not taking it lightly, the first priority in our minds is to get the word out and ensure everybody in the community, in particular trans women, are staying vigilant and hyper aware and safe tonight and the nights to come,” added Matt Comer, communications director for Charlotte Pride.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2020, the majority of transgender or gender non-conforming deaths were Black and LatinX transgender women.
The lack of acceptance and little to no job opportunities makes them vulnerable, says Jermaine Nakia Lee.
Sex work is often the next choice.
“People have to eat, people have to make a living. Sex work is illegal in North Carolina, but it is a way of life for people who can’t find a solid position in society,” said Jermaine Nakia Lee.
As police continue their investigations, there is hope society can turn to one of acceptance.
“If you’re allies, have this conversation outside your LGBTQ circle. Let people in your own communities know because this violence and danger is not going to end if this conversation only stays within trans or LGBTQ circles,” added Comer.
Anyone with information are urged to come forward and can call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective, or leave information anonymously at 704-334-1600 or charlottecrimestoppers.com.
Officers are encouraging sex workers, and especially those in the LGBTQ community, to continue to be careful.
“You gotta know who it is that you’re engaging with, especially now,” said Tufano. “This is a very vulnerable time until this person, or people, are brought in apprehended.”