DETROIT (WWJ) – A body that was found near I-94 on Detroit’s east side in late October has been identified as 19-year-old transgender teen Michele Hilliard.
Hilliard’s mother identified the body on Thursday. Hilliard went missing on Oct. 23. Police found her body near Bewick Street and I-94 later that day.
Hilliard, who was born Henry, changed her name to Michele and was also known as Shelley and Treasure.
Wayne County spokesman Dennis Niemiec said piercings and tattoos, including one of cherries on Hilliard’s upper right arm, helped identify the body.
Equality Michigan, which supports victims of anti-transgender crimes, is helping with the investigation to find the person responsible for Hilliard’s death.
The organization said in a statement that they “are offering support to the victim’s mother and working with the homicide investigator to make sure that this case gets the attention it deserves. We have also asked the FBI to investigate this case as a possible hate crime.
This tragic event must not go unnoticed. Transgender women of color are often targets of hate violence in our region and throughout the country. National research shows that transgender women of color face the most severe violence, including murder, and are most likely to experience discrimination and intimidation. Violence like this must be addressed — we expect a swift response by law enforcement officials. We are working with community leaders to develop strategies to keep transgender people safe in their own communities.”
The Ruth Ellis Center, which provides support services for runaway, homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth in Detroit, said in a statement that ”Michele has been part of the Ruth Ellis Center family for more than two years and we will mourn her loss. Our prayers go out to her family and to the safety of our region’s at-risk youth.”
An investigation by Detroit homicide is ongoing.