Victoria Ramos Gutierrez, a Honduran trans woman, was stabbed to death and then set ablaze in Los Angeles last Wednesday, NBC Los Angeles reports.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office contends that Kevyn Ramirez, 29, attempted to rob Ramos Gutierrez, who he had met online, in her Pico-Union apartment.
Ramos Gutierrez’s body was so badly scorched that officers could not immediately identify her, leaving local activists of the TransLatin@ Coaliton, a group to which the woman — who friends called “Viccy” — was a member of, to publicly announce the death and call for action.
“It is with deep sadness, rage and pain that I have to share with all of you that one of our sisters was brutally murdered in #southlosangeles last night,” Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, wrote in a Facebook post.
It is with deep sadness, rage and pain that I have to share with all of you that one of our sisters was brutally…
She added: “Just to learn that she’s no longer with us is really sad. And it’s not that she is gone, it is the way that she was murdered. She was brutally murdered, and we believe that it was intention, we believe that it was premeditated. … She was burned in her apartment. The police, like always, try to say to Viccky’s friends not to say anything to anybody because of the investigation. … But there’s a couple of things that we want to do. One of those things is to ensure that we seek justice for Viccky.”
A vigil of resistance was held for Ramos Gutierrez on Friday, and her friends have also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to send her body to Honduras for burial.
Ramirez, who initially admitted to the stabbing and fire, is being charged with murder, attempted robbery and arson, and faces capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected in court on Feb. 22.
Ramos Gutierrez is the second trans woman to be murdered this year. Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, founder of the Miss Trans America pageant, was killed in her home in North Adams, Massachusetts on Jan. 5. Her husband has been charged in her death.
On Friday, Netflix dropped an original true crime documentary series about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a then 3-year-old British girl who was abducted at a Portugal resort in 2007 while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. Her case, which remains unsolved, immediately garnered widespread coverage from international media, and, after the release of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, it has become the topic of conversation again.
One of the most heavily-reported missing person cases of modern history, there are numerous theories about what happened to the girl, and many are investigated in the eight-episode series. One of the most widely-believed premises is that Madeleine was abducted and sold into a sex-trafficking ring. The now-15-year-old child’s body has never been found, leaving her parents to believe that “there is still hope that we can find Madeleine.”
While Madeleine’s case is horrifying, it’s unfortunately not unique. In the US alone, an estimated 460,000 children go missing every year. A majority of these youth are of color. According to Robert Lowery, vice president for the Missing Children Division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, about 35 percent of them are Black and another 20 percent are Latinx, CNN reports. Unfortunately, while these young people were abducted, ran away and/or forced into sex trafficking in our own backyards, news of their disappearances hardly make local news, let alone national or international headlines.
This was apparent in 2016, when two young women in New York went missing and were soon found murdered in New York within a week. One of the women, 30-year-old Karina Vetrano, who was horribly beaten, raped and strangled to death while taking a jog in Queens, received national headlines. The other, 20-year-old Dominican-American Maylin Reynoso, whose lifeless body was found floating in the Harlem River, was barely covered in local news.
This particular case of media racism isn’t distinctive, either. Zach Sommers, a law and science fellow at Northwestern University School of Law, investigated the anecdotal theory that women and girls of color receive different treatment from the media when they go missing. According to his research, both race and gender play a role in the amount and type of coverage they receive.
“A person’s race plays into the types of assumptions we make,” Sommers recently told Refinery29. “The labeling of teenagers as runaways tends to be racialized. There is a hierarchy of victims in the media and in society, where we are more willing to label a young white girl as blameless.”
Below, we highlight a sample of the countless Latina girls who are missing, some who have disappeared as recently as this month and others whose cases have remained cold for decades.
Sofia Juarez went missing on February 4, 2003, the day before her fifth birthday. Her disappearance, which remains unsolved, triggered Washington’s first-ever Amber alert. A 10-year-old relative reported seeing the young girl walking down the driveway with a man dressed in a black sweatshirt, black pants and sneakers. Officers considered her grandmother’s boyfriend Jose Lopez Torres, a neighbor with a record of minor sex offenses Kevin Ireland and the girl’s father as possible suspects, but no arrests have been made. Sofia’s mother died in 2009, but her family vowed to continue their search for the girl.
Haley Romero-Menendez was last seen in her Northwest Washington, DC neighborhood on Tuesday, March 12. The Metropolitan Police Department is currently asking for the public’s help in finding the “critically missing” 16-year-old Latina. Standing at 5’5” and 130 pounds, she was last seen wearing a green hoodie and blue jeans.
Reyna Alvarado-Carrera was last seen in her Norcross, Georgia home in 2005 at the age of 13. Few details are known, but authorities believe she was abducted by a non-relative male named Jose Carlos Gatica Luna who was 34 years old at the time of the disappearance. The girl, who went by Gaby, is now 27 years old.
Manhattan Latina Sulay Andino was last seen on March 20, 2018 at the age of 16. Standing at 5’5″ tall and 145 pounds, the girl, now 17, is believed to be in the Bronx, though there are few details around her disappearance, including what she was last wearing, who last saw her and what she was last seen doing.
Diana Belinda Alvarez has been missing since May 29, 2016. The girl, then 9 years old, was last seen in her Fort Myers, Fla. home wearing a short-sleeved shirt and blue shorts. Jorge Guerrero, who is currently incarcerated on possession of child pornography charges, is the prime suspect in the now-11-year-old girl’s disappearance. The girl’s mother, Rita, visited Guerrero in jail in July 2016, where the man told her that her daughter was alive but did not tell her where she was.
Henrietta Geck Cruz Avila went missing the summer of 1960, when she was 17 years old. She was last seen in Garden Grove, Calif., where she lived with her husband who she had dated for a month before they wed. News reports refer to the marriage as “no overwhelming success.” The summer of her disappearance, Henrietta’s parents contacted her husband, Merle, to ask where she was. He stated she had packed her bags and left him. A mysterious telegram signed “Henrietta” was sent to the family after the conversation and a collect call was made from someone claiming to be her, though they hung up as soon as her mother took the call. Henrietta’s parents hired a private investigator and offered a $1,000 reward for information on her remains, as they believed she was killed, but she, now 76, remains missing.
Alissa Albizu disappeared from her home in Philadelphia the night of October 16, 2015. Officials have classified her case as an “endangered runaway.” Last seen at age 13, when she was 5’2”, 112 pounds and wearing a red shirt and blue pants, Alissa, who has a tattoo on her right hand, is currently 16 years old.
Agueda Arias disappeared from Longview, Washington at age three on November 16, 2001. The girl was last seen with her mom, Guadalupe Barajas Castro, shopping with an adult male friend. The vehicle the mother, who was pregnant at the time, was driving was found abandoned in California. Neither she nor her mother was seen again in a case authorities have said had “suspicious circumstances.” She would be 20 years old today.
Manuela Carina Caz Choc
Manuela Carina Caz Choc, 16, was last seen June 10, 2018 in Culpeper, Virginia. The girl is believed to be with a man, named Oscar Quinich Tut, who was posing as her biological father. Manuela, now 17, was 5’0″ tall and 92 pounds at the time of her disappearance. She also had gold caps on three of her front teeth with a half moon shape in the middle and a skin condition causing discoloration on both her arms and back.
Aileen Rivera was last seen in Warminster, Pennsylvania on March 10, 2019. Reading police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating the missing 15-year-old. She is 5 feet 4 inches tall and about 120 pounds.
An 18-year-old girl was fatally stabbed in Texas on Friday after an online feud with another teen turned physical.
After weeks arguing on social media, Kaitlin Leonor Castilleja, alongside her friend Vivian Foster, also 18, went to the house of a 16-year-old girl to fight at about 1 a.m. During the brawl, which occured on the younger teen’s driveway, the 16-year-old, who has not been identified because she is a minor, pulled out a knife and stabbed both Castilleja and Foster.
Castilleja, who graduated from James Madison High School in 2018, was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead just before 2 a.m. Foster reportedly suffered “superficial wounds.”
Following the attack, the suspect, a current student at the high school, called the police to say “she had been assaulted in her driveway when she arrived home from work,” later telling officials that the friends were “stating they want to fight her.”
Foster, too, told authorities that she and Castilleja had been assaulted after “jumping” a girl at her house.
The suspect, who allegedly briefly dated Castilleja’s ex-boyfriend before he returned to her, is being held at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center.
Castilleja’s aunt believes the deadly fight was related to the ex-boyfriend.
“She isn’t able to give you her side of the story, but it’s been ongoing bullying on both sides,” Marie Fernandez told the San Antonio Express News. “It’s social media. There’s so many factors that have contributed to this, and at the end of the day, whether it was wrong, in all aspects my niece had no intentions of hurting anyone.”
The aunt, who believes her niece was lured to the 16-year-old’s home and noted a video of the fight had been on social media, shared her grief with KENS.