Local trans murder victim identified, Fort Lauderdale sees similar shooting death

By Jason A. Michael

DETROIT - T

he identity of a young transgender woman found dead in Detroit Feb. 4 was revealed late last week in response to a FOIA request filed by this newspaper. The Detroit Police Department announced that the body found dumped near the intersection of Canfield and Ellery streets on Detroit's East Side was that of Michael Dionthe Sweeney. Between The Lines has also learned that the victim was more commonly known by the name of Ashley and will, henceforth, refer to her as such.

Sweeney, police have said, was known to work as a sex worker in the area of Woodward Avenue and Seven Mile Road. Shot in the head at an unknown location, her body was then dumped on the city's East Side.

Little else is known about the circumstances of Sweeney's death or, for that matter, Sweeney herself. Friends are fearful and have been loathe to come forward with information, and the family isn't speaking. What's more, coverage of the crime in the mainstream media has been minuscule.

In stark contrast to Sweeney's case, a similar murder that took place two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. has been garnering a great amount of attention.

Simmie Williams, Jr., a sensitive 17-year-old, had recently signed up for Job Corps and aspired to attend culinary school and become a chef. Instead, he was shot to death Feb. 22. At the time, Williams, who was openly-gay and lived with a supportive mother, was dressed as a woman and walking in an area frequented by transgender sex workers. An article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said that Williams was known in the area by the pseudonyms "Chris" and "Beyonce."

Since the shooting, the grassy field on Sistrunk Boulevard where Williams was gunned down has become a shrine filled with votive candles, colorful flowers and teddy bears. There was even a vigil held at the spot last week with more than 100 mourners in attendance, and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to an arrest.

Though there is no reward being offered in the Sweeney case, if you have any information you are urged to contact Melissa Pope at the Triangle Foundation at 313-537-3323 x 112.

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