Last weekend the badly abused body of Ally Lee Steinfeld, a 17-year-old trans woman, was discovered near a Missouri mobile home.
Andrew Vrba, 18 admitted to investigators that he killed Steinfeld, gouging out her eyes and stabbing her genitals repeatedly, before he and his friends set her corpse on fire. They then placed some of the bones in a garbage bag and stowed it in a chicken coop.
Vrba, along with accomplices Briana Calderas, James T. Grigsby, and Isis Schauer, has been charged with first-degree murder. But despite how her body was desecrated, authorities maintain the attack was not motivated by Steinfeld’s gender identity and didn’t qualify as a hate crime.
“You don’t kill someone if you don’t have hate in your heart,” said Texas County Sheriff James Sigman. “But no, it’s not a hate crime.”
“I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters,” added prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. “That is a hate crime in itself.”
Missouri state law does provide for enhanced penalties for crimes “which the state believes to be knowingly motivated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or disability of the victim or victims.” But for some reason authorities don’t feel Steinfeld’s murder meets those criteria. Unsurprisingly, many LGBT activists disagree.
“This violence, often motivated by hatred, must come to an end,” said HRC’s Chris Sgro. “We will continue to mourn Ally and fight back against transphobia and anti-trans violence.”
Steinfeld’s mother, Amber Steinfeld, said her child was quiet but “loving and kind-hearted.”
She began coming out publicly about her gender identity this spring. “[I am a trans male to female and I am mostly lesbian but pansexual,” Ally wrote in July. “I am proud to be me, I am proud to be trans. I am beautiful I don’t care what people think.”