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After a transgender woman was found dead from gunshot wounds last week, detectives with the Baton Rouge Police Department identified a suspect: a man with whom she was in a relationship who had threatened her life in the past.

Police said he pulled the trigger during an argument.

Michael Joshua Brooks, 20, was booked into jail Tuesday morning, five days after Marquell Wyatt was shot to death. The shooting occurred in the 5000 block of McClelland Drive, part of Baton Rouge's Brookstown neighborhood.

Detectives interviewed several witnesses to solve the case. During the interviews, they learned that Wyatt — who friends called 'Fifty' — was a transgender woman and had been involved in a relationship with Brooks for over a year, according to his arrest warrant.

Witnesses described the relationship as "very volatile" and said Brooks "was not open or forthcoming" about dating the victim, which "had caused personal problems" for them, detectives wrote in the warrant. At some point over the summer, Wyatt posted videos of them together, according to the warrant. Witnesses said Brooks had threatened to kill her in the past.

The two had broken up but started dating again in the days leading up to the murder, police said.

Just hours before the shooting, Wyatt and her friend met Brooks somewhere in the Brookstown area to deliver him a cell phone, police said. He became upset that they made the delivery in front of his girlfriend and brother, witnesses told detectives.

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Wyatt and Brooks then started arguing over the phone, according to the warrant. She borrowed a vehicle and told witnesses she was going to retrieve the cell phone she had given him.

She called another person while driving back to Brookstown and started describing the events of that night, police said. She then put the person on hold, saying Brooks was calling to tell her where exactly to meet him. Police said she never returned to the unfinished conversation. 

Wyatt was found dead inside a vehicle around 11 p.m. Thursday, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

She was one of 17 people killed in January across East Baton Rouge, marking the deadliest month in more than a decade, according to parishwide murder statistics. That surge in killings came following the devastation of 2020, which became the most murderous year on record as Baton Rouge gun violence skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The parish saw a significant rise specifically in domestic violence killings throughout 2020, which was attributed in part to stress and tensions exacerbated by the pandemic. Officials also said otherwise minor disagreements are more often escalating into shots fired. 


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.