The bodies of two New York City transgender women, Serena Angelique Velázquez, 35, and Layla Peláez, 21, were found in a burnt-out car on a desolate road in Humacao, on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast Wednesday morning.
The women were friends who lived in New York City — Ms. Velázquez in Queens and Ms. Peláez in the Bronx — and had recently returned to Puerto Rico, according to family members and activists. They were planning to fly back to New York later this month.
The police have determined that the killings were homicides but said they were waiting for autopsy results to determine how the women were killed, reports the New York Times.
Layla Peláez and Serena Angelique Velázquez were last seen in the company of an unidentified man in a video posted to social media according to Capt. Teddy Morales, the chief of criminal investigations for the Puerto Rico police in Humacao.
Puerto Rico’s attorney general, Dennise N. Longo Quiñones, said the Puerto Rico Bureau of Police was working with prosecutors from the Puerto Rico Department of Justice to identify the perpetrators and their motive.
“Our investigation will include addressing any discriminatory animus that would qualify the crime as a hate crime, conduct which would be considered an aggravating sentencing factor in the prosecution of the underlying offenses,” Ms. Quiñones said. “We remain committed to bring justice to all victims of violent crimes in the island.”
The murderer of these women has outraged friends and family who remembered the friends as kind, gentle souls.
There have been four transgender people murdered in Purto Rico since January 1st, none of the cases have been solved.
The killings come a month after a 19-year-old transsexual man identified as A. M. Méndez was fatally shot in the western town of Moca and two months after the fatal shooting of a person identified as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, which Puerto Rico’s governor said was likely a hate crime. According to the website Latino rebels.com, the victim’s body was found in the northern town of Toa Baja after a video was made public in which at least two men are heard mocking and threatening a person believed to be the victim followed by gunfire.