Cleveland police investigating two transgender slayings

Dec. 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM   |   0 comments

CLEVELAND, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Police in Cleveland acknowledged the slayings of two transgender women recently are "crimes of hate" and have been sent to the federal government for review.

Two transgender women were killed a day apart earlier this month. The body of Betty Skinner, 52, a disabled woman who lived in an assisted living facility, was found Dec. 5. A day later, Brittany Stergis, 22, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head inside a car on the city's west side.

Police do not believe the two cases are related and do not have any suspects in either investigation, the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported..

Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told members of the city's gay community at a forum detectives are doing their best to catch the killers -- and that they are being treated as hate crimes.

"These are crimes of hate," Tomba said. "We acknowledge that, make no mistake about it, but as far as the law goes ... we will take these two crimes to the federal government, we will ask them to review them and see if they fall under the hate crime statute."

The Plain Dealer said Monday the city's police force cannot formally declare something a hate crime. That distinction must be made by the FBI and Department of Justice. Officials there will decide whether any suspects are charged with federal crimes.

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