Transgender woman found dead in Athens parking lot

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and authorities in Athens are continuing to investigate the death of a 40-year-old transgender woman whose body was discovered in late December just a few hundred feet from her apartment. 

A jogger found the body of Kimberely Patricia Cope in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on Baxter Street about 6 a.m. on Dec. 27. Three friends spending time at Cope’s apartment, also located on Baxter Street, hadn’t seen Cope for at least three hours.

There were no visible signs of trauma, according to Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson. But the GBI performed an autopsy and the results are pending, he added. 

A cause of death has not yet been determined, according to Natalie Ammons, the GBI’s deputy director of public affairs. The autopsy findings will be turned over to investigators in Athens. 

“It will remain an open investigation until I get these results,” Wilson told Project Q Atlanta. 

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department also continues to investigate Cope’s death, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Friends told police they were across the street from Cope’s apartment when they noticed a white SUV arrive, according to an incident report. Someone inside the vehicle spoke to Cope but the friends did not see if she got inside the SUV. 

“When they looked outside again, Kimberely was no longer in sight,” according to the incident report. 

The friends saw Cope between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on Dec. 27. Her body was discovered about 6 a.m. The friends did not respond to an inquiry from Project Q.

A graveside service was held for Cope at Pine Acres Cemetery in McRae, Ga., on Jan. 2, according to her obituary.

Cope moved with family from Michigan, where she was born, to Commerce, Ga., in 2010. She loved pets and had a dog named Chance, according to her obituary.

“As an adult Kim came into her own by combining her talents and passions. She was a gifted make-up artist, a self-trained hair stylist, had an eye for presentation and an extraordinary sense of style. Kim would continue to enjoy and evolve that artistry throughout her life,” her obituary said.

The National Black Justice Coalition said it’s “holding out hope for some sense of justice” in Cope’s death.

“As we enter the New Year we should commit to concerted, communal efforts to ensure that Black trans and gender non-conforming lives are valued, supported and protected,” David Johns, NBJC’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “Kimberely Patricia Cope should be celebrating new opportunities presented by this New Year with all of us.”

“Kimberely and her family deserve better. Our community deserves better,” Johns added.

If Cope was killed, she would be at least the 45th transgender or non-conforming person who died by violence in 2020 in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. Cope would also be at least the third transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in Georgia last year.

Scottlyn Kelly Devore, 51, was choked to death and dumped in a wooded area near Augusta in March. Felycya Harris, 33, was shot to death in an Augusta park in October.

At least two transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2021, according to HRC.

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