Latest: Victim found in burned car in New Orleans East dies from blunt force trauma _lowres

Devin Diamond

The Coroner’s Office has classified the death of Devin Diamond, whose body was found in a burning car in New Orleans East on Sunday, as a homicide. The cause of Diamond’s death, Dr. Jeffrey Rouse said Friday, was “blunt force trauma.”

The Coroner’s Office described Diamond as a male, the same gender listed on Diamond’s Facebook page. But one friend said Diamond was in the midst of a gender transition.

George Melichar, who knew Diamond through a French Quarter retail job, said the two had a conversation on the subject several months ago.

“When I asked her if she identified as a man or a woman, she told me that she would answer to both. But being that she was transitioning, I felt that it was the best to refer to her as a woman, and she agreed,” said Melichar.

“Devin was very loved, and Devin was very kind,” Melichar said. “And that's what makes this more difficult. In addition to losing a friend, we lost an LGBT leader.”

(UPDATE: June 10, 9:40 a.m.)

The coroner's office has confirmed that Devin Diamond died as the result of blunt force trauma.

More deatils to come.

(Original Story, June 9)

Days after firefighters found charred human remains inside a burning car in New Orleans East, the Coroner’s Office has identified the body as that of a New Orleans native who recently returned to the city after a decade in Georgia following Hurricane Katrina.

But for a grieving mother and the New Orleans Police Department, it remains a mystery exactly how 20-year-old Devin Diamond, who worked at the Wal-Mart in New Orleans East, wound up dead. Although the Coroner’s Office has yet to make an official determination, Antionette Diamond believes her child may have been murdered.

And a source who requested anonymity described surveillance footage that appears to show a man walking toward the car where Devin Diamond’s body was found early Sunday, moments before the vehicle burst into flames.

“We had only been in the city a year, so I can’t imagine who would want to harm him,” said Antionette Diamond, 39. “Now, I’m just trying to plan a service, to celebrate who he was as a person.”

Devin Diamond grew up in the Lower 9th Ward before traveling to Norcross, Georgia, after Katrina and attending high school there.

Antionette Diamond said Devin had returned to New Orleans in early 2015 and had just moved into the Chenault Creek apartments in New Orleans East on June 2.

“My baby was kind and loving, and he had a big heart,” she said, adding that from what she has been able to gather, Devin borrowed a car from a roommate to go to a party Saturday night. From then on, Devin’s movements are a mystery to her.

The next place where Devin can be definitively placed is where the car was found: in the 4400 block of Flite Court in New Orleans East.

One woman who lives nearby, who declined to be named for fear of retribution, said she was asleep when she heard a loud boom about 4:15 a.m. She rushed to her window to see a black Toyota Camry engulfed in flames. She called 911, and firefighters arrived in minutes.

The firefighters quickly put out the blaze but then discovered a body in the car’s front passenger seat. Within hours, the Fire Department had classified the case as arson.

A source who described surveillance video taken nearby said the footage captured a partial view of the incident, with the Camry arriving on Flite Court just before 3 a.m. The source said a man is seen leaving the area and returning twice, the second time with a container full of gasoline or another accelerant. Minutes later, Flite Court is engulfed in smoke.

The Police Department is treating the case as an unclassified death, pending an official determination from the Coroner’s Office. But a homicide detective has been assigned to investigate the case, with the assistance of the Fire Department.

Tyler Gamble, a Police Department spokesman, described the investigation as ongoing and declined to release details.

Antionette Diamond said investigators have not told her whether they believe Devin was dead before the vehicle was set on fire, and the Coroner’s Office has not disclosed whether it found any other signs of trauma to the body. But for the mother, it’s a real possibility that Devin Diamond was killed.

“He may be the victim of either a homicide or a hate crime. I cannot say for sure,” Antionette Diamond said.

She knew Devin was a gay man, she said, and “there are a lot of people that don’t like gay males.”

Pictures on Devin Diamond’s Facebook page, which also lists Diamond as gay, appear to show Diamond presenting as a woman. “Certain aspects of his life, we didn’t talk about,” Antionette Diamond said. “Devin was who he was, and I didn’t love him any less because of it.”

She said that from the moment the roommate told her the car had been found with human remains inside, she knew that they belonged to Devin.

“Maybe God placed some stuff in my spirit, so I would be OK with it,” she said.

Antionette Diamond has set up an online fundraiser to pay for burial expenses. She may never know what happened to Devin, she added, but she is certain that if her child was killed, there will ultimately be justice for the perpetrator.

“Even if they never stand before a judge and a jury, they’ll stand before God, and his wrath is way worse than anything man could issue,” she said.