Josh Vallum was sentenced to 49 additional years Monday under federal hate crimes law for the murder of transgender woman Mercedes Williamson. Vallum will serve the additional years as provided by THE MATTHEW SHEPARD AND JAMES BYRD, JR., HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT OF 2009 concurrently with the state sentence of life for murder.
wlox.com reports that Josh Vallum’s case is the first federal hate crime tried in the country involving a transgender victim. He admitted to killing the 17-year-old in 2015, the same day her body was found in a wooded area of the Rocky Creek community.
According to prosecutors, Vallum admitted having a consensual sexual relationship with Williamson and that he knew Williamson was transgender. But he kept all of it a secret from his family, friends, and other members of the Latin Kings and Queens Nation gang to which he belonged. After Vallum ended his romantic and sexual relationship with Williamson, he had no contact with her until May 2015.
Vallum admitted, as part of his guilty plea, that on May 28, 2015, he decided to kill Williamson after learning that a friend had discovered Williamson was transgender. Vallum believed he would be in danger if other Latin Kings members found out that he had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a transgender woman.
On May 29, 2015, Vallum found Williamson at her home in Alabama, lured her into his car, and drove her to his father’s home in Lucedale, Mississippi. Vallum admitted that he then used a stun gun to shock Williamson in the chest, repeatedly stabbed her, and hit her with a hammer until she died.