The body of a transgender woman was found in rural St. Helena Parish Wednesday afternoon, and police are investigating the incident as a homicide.
Shakie Peters, 32, was found off Opal Bennett Road near Amite. A person of interest from another parish is being investigated, the St. Helena Parish Sheriff's Office said, but no suspect names or motives had been released as of Saturday afternoon.
The Sheriff's Office identified Peters as a male, but family members say she has long lived as a woman.
Natahalie Nia Faulk, a friend of Peters and fellow black trans woman, said Shakie was a loyal friend and life of the party.
They met at the funeral of a mutual friend — another trans woman.
“Shakie was a very independent person and very loyal to her friends,” she said. “She was full of laughter and an abundance of life.”
Faulk said her earliest memory of meeting Peters was that funeral, after which they went out to drink and dance to celebrate their friend’s life. Faulk said it’s stunning that she is again mourning a death in the Black trans community.
“It’s traumatizing whenever we see (a killing) because we think, 'will they be honored in their death?' It’s a personal violence and whenever we die, often police or others don’t recognize the life that came before it,” Faulk said, referencing St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office’s identification of Peters as a male.
“This is systematic and not an isolated incident,” she said.
The Louisiana Trans Advocates referenced the misgendering of Peters in a statement Saturday morning, saying it can be difficult to accurately track the murder of transgender people because of misidentification.
The statement called for law enforcement to issue more information to the public on Peters' homicide.
"Amite and Louisiana leaders must speak out against these killings, against the ongoing, systemic devaluation of trans people that pervades our media and politics, and against the institutional racism that places almost all of this burden on trans women of color," the statement said.