Trans Woman Found Murdered At Construction Site In Ithaca

"She recognized the realness in all of us without question and made us feel beautiful."

An arrest has been made in conjunction with the brutal murder of a transgender woman in upstate New York.

Josie Berrios was found dead Tuesday morning at a construction site in Collegetown, near Ithaca, with “apparent burns” on her body. By Tuesday evening, Michael Davis of Dryden had been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree arson. Police say a gallon of gasoline was found at the scene.

A duffle bag found during the investigation contained a lighter, as well a security company uniform Davis was seen wearing earlier in surveillance video. A photograph of Davis taken Monday evening shows him with the same duffel bag wearing the uniform shirt in the building where Berrios, 28, was found.

Authorities also uncovered plastic bags containing work gloves and clothing that smelled of gasoline in Davis’ home.

A Facebook post from Kat Von Riesling identified the victim as Barrios, also known as Kimbella Rosé, a founding member of the House of Merlot. According to Riesling it’s believed Rosé and Davis knew each other.

Kimbella, also known as Kendra Adams or Josie to some, was one of our founding members of the House of Merlot before we were even official. She was usually full of energy, rarely on time, and always slayed her performances.

A proud trans woman of color, she always tried her best to make new performers feel comfortable in our spaces. She recognized the realness in all of us without question and made us feel beautiful. She was part of so many families here in Ithaca, that many are feeling stunned and lost following this news. Her presence is still felt, and will never be forgotten.

A Celebration of Life and Pride Show on June 22 at the Range will be dedicated to Rosé, and will include a moment of silence.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.