On April 9, Kenne McFadden’s body was found floating in the San Antonio River.
But in June, police announced they believed McFadden had been pushed—making the 26-year-old the 13th reported transgender person to killed in 2017 out of 27 total so far.
Now, as the Current reported Tuesday, 20-year-old Mark Daniel Lewis has been charged with manslaughter, with a grand jury indicting him for “recklessly” causing McFadden’s death.
The Bear County Criminal District Attorney’s Office told The Daily Beast early Thursday afternoon that the indictment will be made public once Lewis is arrested. As of this writing, Lewis has yet to be booked.
In the meantime, McFadden’s mother Joann told KSAT, that the development in the months-old homicide case has “brought some relief to [her]” now that “the person finally is going to be charged.”
“For that person to push Kenne in the river and keep going—you know, personally, I’m thinking it could be a hate crime,” she added.
The mystery of McFadden’s murder has been a particularly long and trying saga. Her body was found in the pedestrian-laden River Walk section of the San Antonio River, as the Current reported, by a local employee, who asked river boat operator Tom Vanzandt to stop and investigate.
Vanzandt told the Current that he first saw a “mass of brown hair” before realizing that he was looking at a body, floating face-down.
The homicide was, as San Antonio police spokesperson Sgt. Jesse Salame told the San Antonio Express-News in June, “surprising because it’s one of the more popular areas of the River Walk” and that he couldn’t “even remember the last one there.” At that point, a person of interest was already being questioned.
Notably, it wasn’t until June that the public even learned McFadden was transgender because, like so many transgender homicide victims, she had been misgendered in initial police and media reports.
McFadden’s death is a tragic reminder that even this year’s all-time-high tally of 27 killings may be too low: If it took months for the public to learn that she was transgender, there are almost certainly other victims who have never been properly identified.
That’s why LGBT rights organizations like the Human Rights Campaign tend to qualifty that “at least 27 transgender people [have been] fatally shot or killed by other violent means” (emphasis added).
As the Human Rights Campaign noted in their memorial post for McFadden, she was a waitress who often “posted videos of herself singing” on Facebook.
After McFadden’s identity became clear, friends who knew her as Kenne—and the LGBT community at large—began to mourn her suspicious death. One told KENS 5 that she was the “friendliest person ever, but when [she] needed to, [she] could be assertive when the time came.”
Now that Lewis has been indicted, details in the case still remain scant. As the San Antonio Express-News noted, the central allegation in the indictment leaves room for two scenarios: Either Lewis caused McFadden’s death by “causing the complainant to enter into a body of water”—or he “[failed] to assist the complainant from the body of water” even while “knowing that the complainant was impaired by alcohol.”
In other words, the indictment claims that Lewis pushed McFadden into the river or he knew she was drunk and left her to drown anyway.
Either way, he has been charged with manslaughter, with a $20,000 bond and a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years, as the Express-News reported—and after Lewis is arrested, the indictment can be legally unsealed, possibly revealing more information about the case.
By The Daily Beast’s tally, McFadden’s is the eleventh transgender killing this year to result in criminal charges. Apart from three other transgender people who were shot by police, the remainder of 2017’s 27 killings—the most reported in the U.S. out of any year in history—remain unsolved.