Nation’s first transgender killing of 2017 is in Mississippi

Mesha Caldwell
Mesha Caldwell

An LGBT advocacy group said Madison County’s first homicide of 2017 is also the nation’s first transgender homicide this year.

Madison County spokesman Heath Hall said authorities received a call about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday about a possible death.

Coroner Alex Breeland said the body of Omario Caldwell, also known as Mesha Caldwell, was found on Heindl Road near Old Yazoo City Road. He confirmed the death is a homicide but would not release a cause pending autopsy.

Hall confirmed reports Caldwell, who was said to be a popular hair and makeup artist in Canton, had been shot.

Evonne Kaho, CEO of the transgender nonprofit Love Me Unlimited 4 Life, said Caldwell was her friend and her roommate in 1996.

“She was a happy person that loved everyone and never met a stranger,” Kaho said. “For me as a black transgender woman and the leader of the community, it’s a very hard pill to swallow.

“This is a tragic event, and it not only impacts the trans community, but the community as a whole.

“Each time a person of trans experience is killed or experiences violence against them, it is an assault against all of the ideals that we as a country stand for. The ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom of being who we want to be and being entitled to do so without persecution.”

Authorities would not comment on whether the motive was related to the fact Caldwell was transgender. The investigation continues, Hall said.

Across social media, the transgender community is identifying Caldwell as the first transgender homicide in the nation for 2017.

Josh Vallum, a Mississippi man who was a member of the Latin Kings street gang, was the first person in the nation to plead guilty to a hate crime with a transgender victim after he admitted killing transgender teen Mercedes Williamson in George County.

Mississippi also had a high-profile case in July of last year after transgender nurse Dee Whigham was stabbed to death while visiting the Gulf Coast for Black Rodeo.