Ally Steinfeld, a transgender teenager, was murdered in Cabool, Missouri, earlier this month. Now, details about her violent death are beginning to emerge.
According to Kansas City, Steinfeld, who had come out as transgender earlier this year, had been stabbed to death. Her body was found to have been severely mutilated and burned.
“I still don’t know who in their right minds would do something like that,” said Linda Camara, who is close friends with one of Steinfeld’s cousins. “Killing someone is very bad, but I mean to do it ... I just can’t even see someone doing that.”
Three have been charged with her murder: Andrew Vrba, Briana Calderas, and Isis Schauer. Vrba admitted to the stabbing; Calderas and Schauer were present and helped burn the body. Vrba says he had attempted to poison her, but when she refused to drink the poison he resorted to stabbing her. A fourth individual, James Grigsby, has been charged with abandonment of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, both felonies.
Vrba, who is 18 years old, bragged to police about the crime, adding that he had gouged out Steinfeld's eyes and destroyed her genitals.
The Human Rights campaign has noted that several news outlets had misgendered Steinfeld in the reports on her death. She was also referred to as male in court proceedings. Steinfeld had come out as transgender on social media in May and had changed her name on Facebook.
Texas County Sheriff James Sigman has criticized media for including the details of her death.
“I know the family of the victim was very upset for they did not know the full details of how their loved passed because I did not disclose that information to them for many reasons,” Sigman wrote. “Our investigation is still ongoing and details of the crime like that should not be released to the public... As usual in homicide cases it is hard to make (sense) of the reason or figure out why people do the things that they do.”
Many are speculating that the incident was a hate crime, but police are unconvinced: “I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters,” said prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr, who does not think the killer's motivation related to Steinfeld's gender. “That is a hate crime in itself.”
Probable cause statements omit the detail that Steinfeld was transgender.
“This violence, often motivated by hatred, must come to an end,” said Chris Sgro, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “We will continue to mourn Ally and fight back against transphobia and anti-trans violence.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Steinfeld family with funeral expenses.