Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 18-year-old Andrew Vrba, who has been implicated in the violent death of trans teenager Ally Steinfeld. The case garnered national attention because of the slaying's brutality: Steinfeld had been stabbed in the genitals and her eyes had been gouged out before her body was set on fire.
Steinfeld, who was 17 years old, was killed in September of 2017 near the small town of Cabool, Missouri. Vrba was charged with first-degree murder, abandonment of a corpse and armed criminal action, according to The Kansas City Star. Vrba has allegedly admitted to stabbing Steinfeld, telling police he bragged about the killing to friends.
Vrba is not the only one implicated in Steinfeld's murder.
One female suspect, Isis Schauer, 18, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to The Star. A third suspect, Briana Calderas, 24, awaits trial on first-degree murder charges. One last suspect has pleaded not guilty to abandonment of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence.
Vrba's attorneys have not offered a comment on prosecutors seeking the death penalty, according to NBC News.
Steinfeld's alleged murderers were not charged with hate crimes, sparking outcry from LGBTQ advocacy groups. County Sheriff James Sigman and prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. have claimed the killing was not motivated by Steinfeld's gender identity.
"I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters," Stevens told the Associated Press at the time. "That is a hate crime in itself."
LGBTQ groups continue to speak out against the court's decision pertaining to the hate crime status.
"The desecration of Steinfield’s body is a direct correlation to the way trans bodies are spoken about — in so-called bathroom bills, in public transitions and in death," Audacia Ray, director of community organizing and public advocacy at the Anti-Violence Project, said to NBC News. "This is especially true for trans women, and trans feminine individuals, whose vulnerability to violence is amplified by misogyny."
Meanwhile, other LGBTQ groups are speaking out against the death penalty. The National Center for Transgender Equality, for example, has issued a statement saying it "does not support the death penalty."
"While investigating crimes against transgender people and holding individuals responsible is important, our vision of justice is not focused on ‘tough’ sentences but on confronting a climate of hate that too many of our leaders are promoting, and pursuing policies that value transgender people while they are alive," Harper Jean Tobin, the organization's director of policy, said in a statement sent to NBC News.
There have been at least eight known transgender victims of homicide in the year 2018, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.
People who identify as transgender face considerable violence, according to HRC President Chad Griffin.
“The epidemic of violence against transgender people is an urgent crisis that demands the nation's immediate attention,” said Griffin. “The unique and tragic stories featured in this report reflect the obstacles that many transgender Americans — especially trans women of color — face in their daily lives. It is crucial that we know these stories in order to combat the transphobia, misogyny and racism fueling this violence so that we can end this epidemic before it takes any more lives.”
[Photo: Ally Steinfeld via Facebook]
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