A Georgia man is accused of choking a gender non-conforming person to death and dumping the body in a wooded area near Augusta. They are at least the 36th transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in the U.S. this year.
Police charged Ronald Anthony Harris, 40, with the murder of John Scott Devore, 51. Devore also identified as Scottlyn Kelly Devore. It is not clear what name and pronouns Devore used publicly.
Devore was last seen on March 12 and was reported missing two days later, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. Police then arrested Ronald Harris and 34-year-old Margaret Harris for burglarizing Devore’s home in Augusta.
“During the investigation on March 17, 2020, investigators were able to link [Ronald Harris] to the missing person case,” according to an incident report.
Police alleged that Ronald Harris choked Devore to death outside the victim’s apartment and placed the body in Devore’s car on March 13, according to the Augusta Chronicle. Police found Devore’s body next to Highway 80 near Augusta on March 31.
“There’s no doubt based on the evidence that he was in the house and all that stuff, and he knew enough to take us back to where the body was,” Major Steve Strickland told Project Q Atlanta.
Harris told police the two were in a sexual relationship, and Strickland said it appeared to be true.
“Is he telling the truth about having sex with [Devore] in the past? I would say yes, but we don’t have proof of that,” he said. “He wasn’t a stranger.”
‘We need everyone to speak out’
Devore was at least the 36th transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in the U.S. this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Tori Cooper, HRC’s director of community engagement, called Devore’s death a “tragedy.”
“This violence that we have seen so often this year results from stigma and bias against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” Cooper said in a press release. “It’s clear that we are not doing enough to stop this violence – we need everyone to speak out and take action.”
“As we remember and mourn Scott/Scottlynn DeVore, we must work to dismantle the culture of violence and stigma that is so prevalent in our society,” Cooper added.
Ronald Harris is being held at the Charles B. Webster Detention Center in Augusta. His case stalled due during the statewide shutdown of jury trials amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trials resumed in Richmond County Superior Court this week for the first time since March, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
This is the second murder of a trans or gender non-conforming person in Augusta this year. Felycya Harris, 33, was shot and killed in an Augusta park in October.
This story is made possible by a grant from Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.