The victim of a homicide at a St. Martin hotel was stabbed, an official said, and has been identified as Dee Whigham, 25, of Shubuta.
Whigham was found stabbed Saturday night, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said.
The slaying occurred at the Best Western Plus Cypress Creek hotel, just north of the Interstate 10 exit to Ocean Springs.
The sheriff initially identified the victim as a man, but Whigham’s sisters told the Sun Herald she was a transgender woman who had not had sexual reassignment surgery.
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Whigham was a hotel guest and was staying in Room 127 with several people, Ezell said. She was found dead in that room.
Whigham had come to South Mississippi with friends and co-workers to attend the Gulf Coast Black Rodeo at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, he said.
Shubuta is about 130 miles north of the Mississippi Coast.
An autopsy is pending and the investigation continues, the sheriff said.
The manager of the hotel said the staff didn’t know a homicide had occurred on the property until patrol cars and fire trucks rolled up Saturday night.
Who called for help remains unclear.
Ezell’s office has released surveillance pictures of a man investigators identified as a person of interest.
Coroner Vicki Broadus declined to answer questions, saying all details will come from the sheriff’s office.
Hotel manager, guests react
“We didn’t know it had happened and we don’t know anything about it now,” said San Naqvi, hotel manager.
“The police came in, they took what they needed and they left,” Naqvi said. “We cooperated.”
A couple from Tupelo stayed at the hotel overnight and were checking out Sunday.
When asked if they had heard about the homicide, the woman looked at her male companion and said, “I told you.”
The couple, from Tupelo, said they noticed crime scene tape around the back of the hotel Saturday night and several police vehicles.
“We couldn’t drive around the back of the hotel,” the man said.
The couple didn’t want to be identified because an arrest had not been made. They said they had come for the rodeo in Biloxi.
“We checked in about 7:50 (p.m.) and rushed to get dressed for the rodeo,” the woman said. “We left (the hotel) about 8:30 p.m.” The woman said they were only gone for two hours.
“I thought maybe someone had drowned,” she said.
The four-story hotel has a swimming pool behind the building.
The man said he noticed a woman sitting on the first floor talking to an officer late Saturday night.
He said an officer asked if he and the woman had been at the hotel earlier in the evening.
“They wanted to talk to people who had been there,” the man said. “Whatever happened, it happened while we were gone. We asked around and nobody said they knew anything.”
A man in the hallway
Time stamps on surveillance pictures released by the sheriff indicate the killing could have happened just after 8:35 p.m. A man wanted for questioning is shown in a hallway wearing a green shirt. He was carrying a back pack. At 8:58 p.m., another picture shows the same man leaving, but his shirt was off and hanging around his neck.
Ezell said investigators want to hear from anyone with information about the homicide or the man photographed by surveillance cameras.
Whigham’s family set up a Go Fund Me account to help cover funeral expenses. To donate, click here.
Justin Mitchell, Sun Herald web producer, contributed to this report.
To give a tip
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department wants to hear from anyone with information about a person of interest photographed around the time of a homicide at a Best Western hotel off Interstate 10.
- Call Detective Leo Allen, 228-875-0292
- Call sheriff’s dispatchers at 228-769-3060
- Call Crime Stoppers at 877-787-5898 or give a tip online at mscoastcrimestoppers.com