Crime & Courts

Police have a ‘very strong’ lead in killing of transgender SC woman

Sheriff’s investigators have “a very strong suspect” in the Easter weekend killing of a transgender South Carolina woman.

Sasha Wall was found dead in her car on a rural roadway in Chesterfield County the morning of April 1, authorities have said. The 29-year-old had been shot multiple times at close range in the neck and shoulder.

The FBI is assisting sheriff’s investigators in analyzing phone records and data from cell towers near where Wall was found, Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks told The State on Monday.

State Law Enforcement Division agents collected DNA evidence from the crime scene that likely belonged to the killer, Brooks said.

“Those things are notoriously slow, and we want to make sure they’re right before we file search warrants,” Brooks said of the FBI and SLED analysis.

Investigators have “a very strong suspect in the killing,” and have talked nearly every day with people who knew Wall, whom authorities legally identified as Wendell Price Jr., Brooks said.

“The victim’s family has been very cooperative and has given us names of possible suspects,” Brooks said.

Although the FBI is assisting, there’s been no word on whether federal hate crimes charges are possible.

“There’s no indication yet that this was a hate crime,” Brooks said. “Everything’s pointing to (the indication) it was a breakup-like argument.”

Wall’s death was the eighth homicide of a transgender person in the United States this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that advocates for LGBTQ people.

South Carolina has ranked near the top of the nation in women killed by men for two decades. Last year, the state maintained its No. 5 rating by the Violence Policy Center.

During a vigil Sunday evening at the State House in Columbia, attendees lit candles and called for more tolerance and understanding of transgender people.

“Sasha became a victim of yet another trans homicide,” organizer Nathaniel Naomi Simmons-Thorne said. “I’m here today to say that Sasha’s life mattered ... and that all black trans lives matter, every single one.”

Video producer Ashlen Renner contributed.