An arrest has been made in connection with the slaying of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a 27-year-old transgender woman who was mutilated and killed in Philadelphia this summer.
Akhenaton Jones, 36, was apprehended in Los Angeles on Monday evening and is currently awaiting extradition to Philadelphia, according to NBC 10.
Fells’ body was discovered floating in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River on June 9. She’d been stabbed repeatedly, with trauma to her face and head and both legs severed mid-thigh.
Raised in York, Pennsylvania, Fells was a dancer and aspiring fashion designer whom friends called “a unique and beautiful soul.”
“She was a person who could light up a room even when she was being quiet,” Fells’ father, Keith Edmonds, told NBC10 in June. “The one thing that stood out about her is she did her own thing with confidence, which as a family we all embraced.”
Jones has been described as an acquaintance of Fells, though a specific motive has not been reported. Police searching his West Philadelphia home on June 16 found a power-cutting tool that investigators believe was used in the crime. There was also evidence of blood on the scene.
Authorities issued a warrant for Jones on charges of murder, possession of an instrument of crime, tampering with evidence, and abuse of corpse. He was considered armed and dangerous and was listed as one of Philadelphia’s most wanted fugitives.
The slaying sparked outrage from activists, politicians and celebrities — including actress Kerry Washington and Kamala Harris — as well as protests in New York, Los Angeles and other cities.
On June 22, Fells’ parents joined hundreds of protesters marching through West Philadelphia in memory of Fells, Breonna Taylor and other Black and transgender victims of violence.
Fells’ aunt, Germyce Williams told Insider that the family was hopeful justice would be served.
“Our goal in all of this, if any good can come from this, is that we’re going to keep Dominique’s memory alive,” Williams said. “We’re going to just make the general public more aware of trans issues. Trans are people, too. And when we say Black lives matter, all Black lives matter, that includes trans people.”
More than 460,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding Fells’ slaying be solved.
“Violence against trans women and ESPECIALLY black trans women is at an all-time high,” it reads in part. “It is literally a pandemic. Dominique did not deserve to lose her life. She did not deserve to spend her last moments in terror.”
For her loved ones, Jones’ arrest has been bittersweet.
“How does this feel like the best and worst day of my life at the same time?” Fells’ sister, Dior Edmonds, tweeted Monday night with a caption featuring Jones’ face. “I’m posting this fool’s face up once again because karma has come back full circle. Dominique always gets the last laugh.”
Deja Lynn Alvarez, a prominent Philadelphia trans advocate, said the community could now “start the long, difficult process of healing.”
“It’s not often that we are able to get justice in our communities,” she said, crediting the work done by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and DA Larry Krasner.
At least 34 transgender or gender-nonconforming people have died by violence in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the highest number since the LGBTQ advocacy group began tracking in 2013, with nearly two months still left in the year.
Mia Green, a 29-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Philadelphia on Sept. 28, less than four months after Fells’ slaying.
Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, told NBC News the real number of homicides could be even higher, as not all deaths are accurately reported. “But we are also at an extremely vitriolic period, where hate is fueled even from our nation’s highest office,” she said.
HRC President Alphonso David referred to the deaths, a majority of which are trans women of color, as an “epidemic of violence.”
“We must work to address the factors that underpin this culture of violence,” he said in a statement last month, “and openly discuss how the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia work to deprive transgender and gender-nonconforming people of equal access to opportunity and necessities like employment, housing and health care.”
Joe Biden released a statement last month calling anti-transgender violence an “epidemic that needs national leadership.” In the statement, which was released prior to the presidential election, Biden vowed to “put forward comprehensive solutions to help empower the transgender and gender non-conforming community and prioritize the prosecution of anti-transgender violence.”