A former pastor has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a felony firearm charge in relation to the death of 36-year-old Black trans woman, Kelly Stough, in 2018.
Albert Weathers, 46, former pastor of the Logos Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, pleaded guilty to the charges on Thursday (27 July), Detroit News reported.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told the newspaper that the case was “slowed down” due to courts not having jury trials during the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant “his case took longer to go through the system”.
Kelly Stough, named in some reports as Keanna Mattel, was shot dead in December 2018, and remembered by loved ones as a “beautiful spirit” and a “sweet, caring individual”.
Police believe Weathers shot Stough and fled the scene of the crime to go to work. He reportedly called police shortly after the shooting, claiming someone had tried to rob him, and he shot the perpetrator by accident. Weathers was arrested in connection with the shooting shortly after.
Kyra Butts, a trans sex worker from the area, testified in 2019 that Weathers frequently saw her and other sex workers, but that she stopped seeing Weathers because he would give her the “run around” when it came to payment.
“His attitude was aggressive and kind of intimidating,” Butts told the court.
Weathers will now reportedly face eight years in prison for the murder charge, and two years for the firearm charge. Sentencing is scheduled for 8 September.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement: “She will not be forgotten. She mattered. We will continue to aggressively prosecute those who bring harm to this and other Wayne County communities.
‘She has a family who cared about her’
Jessica Chantae Stough, Kelly Stough’s mother, said in 2018 that Kelly and other trans women are “not just throwaways”.
“I want people to know that because she was transgender doesn’t mean that she was not loved, that she was not cared for,” she said.
“She has a family who cared about her, who loved her, and I want them to know that transgender ladies – expressly those of colour – they’re just not throwaways; people care about them.”
Stough had previously spoken about violence against trans people in the US, and the mistrust the community has towards police officers.
“The police are unaware with our struggle, so they have no sympathy for us,” she told The Guardian in 2015, after the murder of 20-year-old Amber Monroe, who was also shot dead in Detroit.
The Human Rights Campaign added at the time of Stough’s death: “We must listen to her words and address the factors that continue to foster an epidemic of violence targeting transgender people, particularly transgender women of color.
“It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.”