Prosecutor: Navy seaman borrowed knife before stabbing transgender woman

A sheriff’s investigator testified Monday in Jackson County court that the transgender woman killed in a hotel room in St. Martin in July was stabbed more than 100 times, stabbed in the face and her throat was cut three times.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Dwanya Porche Hickerson, 20, a Navy seaman stationed at Keesler Air Force Base for training. He is accused of killing Dee Whigham, 25, a nurse from Hattiesburg who was visiting the Coast with friends. She was killed on the evening of July 23.

A judge decided Monday there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury, where the district attorney will present the evidence. In the meantime, Hickerson is being held without bond on a capital murder charge.

On Monday, county prosecutor Mark Watts recapped testimony for the Sun Herald. He said hotel surveillance video showed Hickerson and Whigham walking together in a hallway and going into a room around 8:30 p.m. Between 20 and 25 minutes later, video showed Hickerson coming out of the room with his shirt off and hanging around his neck.

Whigham’s friends, who were sharing the hotel room, came in about an hour later and found her dead, cut many times, and called police. Watts said the shower was still running and had blood in it, and that evidence was sent to the crime lab.

Watts said police put the hotel video on social media to try and identify the man leaving the hotel room.

“Someone called from Keesler, they went over there and found a video there that showed the man from the hotel video coming out of the barracks with a bag and throwing it in the dumpster at Keesler,” Watts said. “It had bloody clothes in it.”

Someone at Keesler identified Hickerson as the man in the hotel video, he said.

He said investigators found people who gave Hickerson a ride back to Keesler with his shirt inside out. He said an investigator testified they also talked with people who said they gave Hickerson a ride to the beach, where there were fire pits. Watts said investigators told the court they found a knife they think was the murder weapon in a fire pit on the beach. It was a fixed-blade knife and it was found with other belongings that were burned in the pit.

“They testified they found the guy at Keesler he borrowed the knife from,” Watts said.

“Based on what I heard today, it looks like he (Hickerson) took the knife with him when he went on the meeting with Whigham,” Watts said. “Borrowed it from a buddy, before he met Whigham.”

Investigator pulled a T-shirt matching the shirt on the hotel video out of the dumpster at Keesler, with blood on it, and sent it to the state Crime Lab in Jackson.