The woman who allegedly administered a silicone injection to popular Atlanta transgender performer Lateasha Shuntel two days before she died has been charged by federal authorities with killing her.
Deanna M. Roberts, 46, was arrested on Tuesday at her home in Sanford, Fla., according to federal authorities. She faces charges of falsely claiming to be a licensed medical practitioner, illegally transporting liquid silicone from Florida to Atlanta and causing the death of Shuntel last November by injecting the liquid silicone directly into her buttocks, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“Roberts allegedly caused the death of another person by injecting her with silicone after falsely claiming she was a medical professional,” U. S. Attorney John Horn said in a prepared statement. “The public should be wary of individuals who use substances like silicone in ways that are not approved by the FDA, or that are administered by persons who are not properly trained or licensed.”
Federal prosecutors detailed their case against Roberts on Wednesday:
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: liquid silicone is strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may be legally injected directly into the human body only as a treatment for certain eye conditions. In April, 2004, Roberts began ordering liquid silicone from a business in Arizona. Before she was allowed to buy the silicone, however, she was required to certify that it was not intended to be injected into humans. Roberts falsely swore that she did not intend to inject the silicone into humans. Instead, she claimed that she intended to supply the silicone to a customer for use in lubricating medical equipment. Between April 2004 and December 2015, Roberts purchased approximately 178 gallons of liquid silicone. Roberts then allegedly transported the liquid silicone to the Atlanta area and injected it into the hips, buttocks, and other body parts of her customers. Roberts falsely claimed to her victims that she was a licensed medical practitioner.
On Nov. 16, prosecutors said that Roberts injected liquid silicone into a victim identified in the indictment as L.H. and the injection cause L.H.'s death. The indictment also alleges that Roberts injected two other people with liquid silicone in October and November 2014, though the injections were not fatal.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office could not confirm that L.H. in the indictment is Lateasha Shuntel, whose legal last name is Hall. But on Nov. 16 – two days before her death – Shuntel posted to Facebook that she recently received an injection of some sort from Roberts.
The things we do to keep yall loving us. OMG DeAnna Roberts I don't think my ass will ever stop hurting but I have no doubt you are the best in the business. Thanks for filling me COMPLETELY UP.
At the time, Roberts did not respond to Project Q inquiries about Shuntel's social media post or death. Roberts made her initial court appearance on Tuesday in federal court in Orlando. She is expected to be returned to Atlanta to face prosecution.
Shuntel, 45, was found dead on Nov. 18. Doraville police discovered Shuntel’s body at a residence in the 2700 block of Addison Drive, which is in a neighborhood nestled between Chamblee Tucker Road and Buford Highway.
An autopsy showed that Shuntel did not suffer any traumatic injuries before her death, officials with the DeKalb Medical Examiner's Officer said in November. But investigators were awaiting the results of toxicology and histological testing before determining the cause of Shuntel's death. In recent weeks, the medical examiner's office has not responded to repeated inquiries about the case from Project Q Atlanta.
Shuntel’s death prompted an emotional outpouring from friends, customers she tended to while bartending at Blake’s, and drag performers from across the country. Shuntel headlined the bar’s Cell Block Sunday and her days as a personality in LGBT nightlife in the city date to the now-defunct Backstreet. Shuntel also delivered David Atlanta magazines until her death, as well as Southern Voice until the weekly newspaper closed in 2009.
Some 374 people contributed $16,570 to the Lateasha Memorial Fund within 24 hours of it being established. Drag performers from across gay Atlanta joined an overflowing crowd to pay tribute to Shuntel during a Nov. 22 show at Blake's.
The case against Roberts is being investigated by the Food & Drug Administration, Doraville police and the Atlanta Police Department.
“It is always a tragedy when someone loses their life due to the reckless negligence of another. This death shows why there is a need for FDA oversight and highlights the dangers when the system is illegally circumvented. We are thankful for the successful indictment of Deanna Roberts and pray that other lives can be saved by removing her ability to perform this dangerous activity,” Chief John King of the Doraville Police Department said in a press release.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said the illegal injections have become more common.
“The underground operation of illegal injections has become more common and has threatened the health of victims. We will continue to work with our federal partners to combat this crime and expose perpetrators who risk the health of victims, for the sake of making a quick profit,” Turner said in the release.
UPDATE | An incident report from the Atlanta Police Department indicated that Roberts allegedly injected Shuntel with the silicone in a house on Dunseath Avenue near Marietta Boulevard in northwest Atlanta. The report also stated that the DeKalb Medical Examiner's Office ruled Shuntel's death a homicide on April 20 and listed the cause of death as “complications of silicone polymer embolization.” Silicone polymers similar to ones removed from Shuntel's buttocks were also found in her lungs, according to the incident report.
Roberts could also face charges in Fulton County for Shuntel's death.