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Crime News

Human Remains Found Near Savannah River Identified As Missing Transgender Woman Allegedly Killed With Hammer

KC Lee Johnson’s family and loved ones have been searching for the remains of the 27-year-old transgender woman since her disappearance in January. Three months later, her body has been found and her alleged killer, William Haven Hicks, is in custody.

By Kate Zincone
Killer Motive: What Drives People To Kill?

Human remains recovered in January on the banks of the Savannah River in Georgia have been identified as a transgender woman from North Carolina.

The remains belong to KC Lee Johnson, 27, who was last seen Jan. 13, 2023, according to a news release published by the Wilmington Police Department. Police believe she was killed in Wilmington at that time; her remains were found on Jan. 18, but it would take more than two months to positively identify them.

Leading up to her death, Johnson had been communicating with William Haven Hicks, 26, whom she met on social media, according to police.

Hicks faces charges of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping, officials indicated in a previous news release.

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Johnson’s partner Bulla Brodzinski noted that she last saw Johnson, who said she would be gone for an hour, leaving their home on Jan. 13. After Johnson’s disappearance, Brodzinski searched the woods and social media for a sign that she was alive.

“I wish I would’ve stopped her from going out that door because she would still be here today,” Brodzinski said, according to reporting by WECT TV6. “She motivated me to get out of a dark place and get my life back together. Finally, I was going on a good path, I was clean, I was taking better care of myself. I was getting out of that depressed state and she was there for me. She was the one I could open up to.”

Brodzinski also noted that they bonded over their shared identity as transgender women.

At the time of her death, Johnson was at least the second transgender or gender non-conforming person to be murdered in 2023, not accounting for the several deaths that often go unreported or misreported, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Among Hicks’ charges, the Wilmington Police Department noted that “the defendant unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did of malice afterthought kill and murder KC Lee Johnson,” further elaborating that Hicks allegedly threatened Johnson with a hammer, according to reporting by Port City Daily.

Hicks allegedly stole Johnson’s purse, identification, and debit cards, eventually transporting her to a new location without consent. Police allege that Johnson was kept hostage for “involuntary servitude, doing serious bodily injury.”

Shortly after her disappearance, Wilmington’s LGBTQ+ community gathered at City Hall to honor Johnson.

“So many of you are chosen family that saw KC for everything she was,” said Pastor Kelly Finch of Mosaic United Methodist Church. “We’re all grateful that you gave her the opportunity to be who she was. She did not deserve this. This was hate coming in a vicious form.”

Johnson’s family gathered nearby in the Love Grove neighborhood, in proximity to where she was killed, Port City Daily noted.

“She was a beautiful person,” noted Dawn Buchanan, Johnson’s mother, explaining she was “in a better place – where KC can be KC.”

Within the next several weeks, Hicks will stand before a grand jury.