By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, firstname.lastname@example.org
The transgender community was able to breathe a little easier as Prince George’s County Police made an arrest in one of the homicide investigations that had been ongoing for nearly a month last week.
Baltimore’s Gerardo Thomas, 33, was apprehended at his job in Cecil County and was charged with first-degree murder in the June death of 23-year-old Zoe Spears, Prince George’s County police announced during a news conference July 18.
Thomas is currently being held without bond.
Spears was found fatally wounded on the night of June 13 in Fairmont Heights. There appears to have been no previous relationship between Thomas and Spears and law enforcement authorities have still not determined a motive in the case.
According to Prince George’s County Police Commander Major Brian Reilly of the Criminal Investigation Division, Thomas never referred to Spears as a transgender woman. Reilly also said there was no apparent connection between Spears’ death and the killing of 27-year-old Ashanti Carmon, another transgender woman, who was killed in virtually the same neighborhood on Jost Street last March.
Initially the evidence was hard to come by, which is why there was such a lengthy delay in making an arrest in the case. Reilly said the investigation was a tedious and tireless effort, whose hard work included using resources from the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Motor Vehicle Administrations. The FBI and other police departments also collaborated in search for the suspect.
However, the break in the investigation came from a surveillance video that proved critical in securing the arrest. Security video from a church across the street from the incident captured a Dodge Caravan from the driver’s side. Spears was standing outside the van on its passenger’s side where she was hidden from view.
“While conducting a crime scene canvass in the hours after the murder, detectives recovered surveillance video that captured the actual murder and the suspect’s van,” the police report states.
According to Major Reilly, there are approximately 3,000 cars that fit the description of that vehicle in the metro are, and 34,000 with similar license plates. Detectives used the assistance from the motor vehicle administrations in the District, Maryland and Virginia, and local Dodge dealerships. That allowed them to narrow the search down to a Caravan in a specific shade of silver.
That small piece of evidence allowed detectives to match a van of the right color that was a half-mile away from the area of the shooting two hours before Spears was killed. Thomas apparently rented it from an Enterprise Auto Rental franchise in Baltimore and authorities learned his name from the rental forms.
When detectives interviewed Thomas he was described as being “very vague about his involvement,” with the shooting, but also admitted “to being in the area, armed, and in that vehicle at the time of the murder.”
“There was some concern that we weren’t looking at this case, or aggressively working this case, because Zoe Spears was a transgender commercial sex worker, Prince George County Police Department Spokesperson Jennifer Donelan said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“We are committed to the dignity of human life in Prince George’s County.”