Tobi Hill-Meyer

See Update -- Another Brutal Murder

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | June 19, 2009 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: hate crimes against LGBT people, murder, Raychel 'Roo'., transphobia

Further Update: There is now concrete evidence that this murder did not happen. For more details see an updated post

Update: As pointed out in the comments below, the original source on this story has pulled it because they cannot verify that this is not a hoax.

I myself remain curious. I agree the lack of verification from a mainstream meadia source is very suspicious, but I would like to point out that it is not unheard of for teenagers to get SRS. Additional, while I recognize it may not be entirely rational, I've had too many poor experiences with the mainstream media not to be skeptical of relying on them as a baromoter of the truth. For right now, though, the possibility this is a hoax is quite high. I'm heading into the woods for the weekend, hopefully we will have concrete evidence one way or another by the time I get back.

Regardless, I'm leaving the original post will remain here as documentation of this event.

It hasn't made it into the news yet, but yet another trans woman has been killed. Raychel was 18 years old. While there hasn't been any mention in the media yet, she was apparently a teen moderator of a trans support website. It's through this website that her murder was announced by one of the other moderators, Laura, who also mentioned "Rachel saved many transgender teen lives here."

Additional background and details under the cut, and a warning of graphic violence that may be triggering.

The clearest details have been posted at Zoe Brain's blog where she quotes an account by someone else:

I am having a very difficult time right now. I am a moderator on another site and we have a Forum and we have a Chat. Raychel 'Roo' was 18 in March. She died in intensive care last night. One of our teen Moderators, she lived in New York and was a post op teenage girl, and a dancer. She was headed to the Juliette School in the Fall. Now she is dead.

Her father was killed and her mother lost her arm in a terrible car crash last month. At one of the trials on this, one of the lawyers outed her. Her town had a very negative reaction.

She had life threats, she and her mother. The police had them under protective surveillance. The police left at noon yesterday. By two o'clock she was assulted. Last night she died.

She rode her bike to go to the store. She never came home. They found her bike in a dumpster. Late that evening they found her. She had been assaulted with a sledge hammer, they think, judging from the bruises all over her body. Her knee caps had been broken. She had been gang raped. They buried her alive.

She worked her way out of the almost grave and crawled for three hours to get help. She was put in the ICU and given little chance to survive. Last night she died.

The facts are skimpy, speculation reigns. Supposedly kids from a nearby school came after her in a van. There were no fingerprints. She had no semen after the rapes so it shows premeditation as they used condoms. She was so beat-up her organs just went into shock and she died.

Our whole group is sick and horrified. I am having a difficult time just writing this. I need to for two reasons, to tell her story and to say 'please be careful!' Last night we lost a sister, and one of our own.

Undoubtedly, more details and/or further confirmation will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, there doesn't seem to be too much else to say. Raychel, we mourn you.


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I am printing this and sending it to each legislator who opposes hate crimes legislation and ask them why they are protecting the people who do these crimes.

Kathy Padilla | June 19, 2009 10:24 PM

I think it might be best for us all to refrain from forwarding the story to legislators until there is confirmation of events in the media.

I don't know how likely it is that the news will report this. I'm pretty sure the news is afraid to report anything that demonizes people who hate transgendered folks.

Kathy Padilla | June 20, 2009 10:36 AM

I'm pretty sure that with all the people involved, some reporting will come. I couldn't find a story that confirmed the parents accident either - which likely would have been reported also. Though - there's way to many accident stories to wade through.

It would be helpful to know if any of the moderators have met the girl or her family.

Apparently a hoax, one that I helped believed and shared with others.

I'll be disappearing for a while now.

http://www.lauras-playground.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=8660

Kathy Padilla | June 20, 2009 12:44 PM

Cindi:

You shouldn't be embarassed that your heart was larger than your cynicism. Some of us wish we could still be in that place.

Well, I foolishly posted on my own blog and on PHB. One person promoted it last night, and then another demoted it today, crowing on twitter and on her facebook account about her first demotion of a PHB diary (with links to my diary, which I have since deleted).

So I'm done.

I'm shocked and sickened by this and make me wonder all sort of things...Thank you for your post. Laura is the owner of the Transgender Support site. http://www.lauras-playground.com/index.htm

Jeff LeRoy | June 19, 2009 7:23 PM

This incident brought tears to my eyes. How can the USA continue to tolerate acts of violence, hatred and discrimination? The current administration needs to be made aware of this tragedy. This is just another example, of the nameless, faceless persons that continue to be victims of violence, hatred and discrimination. It is not a NAMELESS person, yet the public would see this as another way of dispelling the myth the LGBT community is a dumping ground of hatred. This has got to stop. Hatred has got to stop. And if Obama is committed to this then ENDA and The hate crimes law WILL pass his desk to be signed. Again, I am not hopeful. I think it's time for a change to LGBT rights. Transgendered people have always fallen to the way side in the LGB community and now its time to stand up an fight!

This form of murder is what American Republican legislators (those vociferously opposed to hate crimes legislation) call "free speech." There is a disturbing trend -- trans folks are marginalized even by other gay folks (and are the first to be abandoned in civic discourse and cast aside in the legislative process). Raychel's death diminishes all of us. "In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem."

SharleahLynn | June 19, 2009 8:42 PM

I am one of the Administrators at Lauras-Playground . I had my heart ripped from my chest as I followed the incident. I was beyond devastated when I learned that this poor child died. I have always thought of Raychel as my own daughter . She will be sorely missed and I carry the sorrow of thinking that my own daughter could wind up the same way , and she is not trans. I am terrified that there may be more attacks on our people . It would be a wonderous thing if the government would wake up , smell the coffee , and do something to protect us .After all , we are people and citizens as well as they are . We are no different from the next person , we breathe the same air , do the same things as other folks do . It is not our doing that has us placed in the wrong body. With my respects , thank you for listening. SharleahLynn

This loss hit us all really hard. I felt that I lost a sister and dear friend.

I have to say that there is a difference in Free speech and murder.

Free speech should never involve the harming of another person for trying to live life the way that they want to.

Laura has succeeded in creating a safe place that Transgendered people can talk to other like-minded people with out fear of abuse.

I have to say that I just saw the post on Laura site today and I cried as I read through the comments. She sounded as if she had such a beautiful soul. She mentored other trans teens in need. Then I read Zoe's blog on the indecent and I angry, why the heck did the police leave if they where under surveillance and had life threats toward them. Did the police neglect Raychel also. I hope to god that she had enough energy in her to at least tell someone who did this to her before she passed away. I feel for her mother, I hope she is doing alright considering what has happened :(
Michelle

Michelle, I had the same thought about the police leaving. My best guess is that a couple of days had gone by since the last threat. It may have been a matter of budget constraints; if they can't afford the extra manpower, the police may have had to make a decision between protection for this family and having an adequate number of officers on the street. This is exactly why we need the Shepard Act to pass; they could have gotten assistance from the feds, had it already been enacted.

Kathy Padilla | June 19, 2009 9:30 PM

My heart goes out to her family, I feel sick just reading this.

Regan DuCasse | June 19, 2009 9:46 PM

Only 18 and all that beautiful possibility so horribly gone...
I need a hug...so bad.

This story sure seems to be spreading fast without verifiable sources providing credibility to it. I hope it is a hoax; for something that terrible to happen to someone is just incomprehensible. I'm thinking it might not be a bad idea to remember that this story originated out of an internet chat room and a few blog postings. Let's see if it's true.

I am a Moderator on Laura's. I loved talking with Raychel about her upcoming dance recitels. She was always so excited! She LOVED to dance and I loved listening to her as she excitedly rambled about where she was going to dance, what she was going to wear, who she was dancing with, the types of dances she was going to do.....

She was more than a dancer mind you. She was such a wonderful young lady! Always willing to listen to you and help when she could. She helped so many young trans people that it can never be counted.

I will miss her.

Oh god. Not again. A piece of me has died just reading this. I fear for my own transgender eight year old daughter. What world is she growing up into? Please no, not her. Why did this happen to Raychel; after all, she was just a girl helping others. Why?

I am deeply saddened by this news! Thank you for posting this Toby,it shows us that we really need to get vocal, and make it known that we will not take this anymore!

Sorry for the misspelling Tobi

Sigh.. this makes me sick. How can people do this to someone? I really just can't understand what is wrong with some people, it shouldn't surprise me any more, but every time.. @_@

When you think you heard it all..a shocking and discusting crime. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. I'll be following this closely.

No mention is made of where this occured. Where did this happen?

When you think you heard it all..a shocking and discusting crime. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. I'll be following this closely.

No mention is made of where this occured. Where did this happen?

Anonymous | June 20, 2009 7:20 AM

Before we all get into an absolute tizzy over this story, THIS STORY SMELLS HEAVILY OF HOAX!. There isn't a place in the United States that could get a trial of an auto accident murder into court to get her outed this fast.

For a murder that is allegedly only a few days old, the details of a person crawling 3 miles with broken knees, being buried alive, and getting gang raped are well beyond even the police departments capability of investigation. Unless the person who actually reported this incident was part of those who murdered, this is way to much information way too quickly.

Before we press this story, can we have
A) The city she was murdered in
B) The alleged hospital where treatment happened
C) Details that would support this post.

We need to be careful in our community not to stir up anger and anxiety over a story that appears questionable until some facts come out. If no facts come out, the poster of the story should be charged with a crime.

Stories like these lead people to believe that the transgender community is crazy and in no way helps us legitimize our lives. This story needs to be pulled until facts can be presented.

My understanding is this started at Laura's Playground. This is irresponsible and Laura needs to be told that she is creating a firestorm over what very well could be an investigatable crime.

Jackxthexpumpkinxking | June 20, 2009 3:41 PM

"I extend my sincerest apologies for reporting the story without verification. I Posted it because I thought I knew the person personally and was grief stricken. I was upset over the loss and verification wasn't first on my mind. We were all fooled. I feel like such an idiot.

Laura"

Laura posted this on her site. She meant no harm and merely felt that a story needed to be heard. She trusted Roo (all moderators are reviewed anyhow) and felt compelled to spread what she thought was the truth to the people who 'knew' and loved someone we thought to be Roo.

Does *anybody*, *anywhere*, have *any* sort of confirmation that this isn't a hoax?

http://susanferman.wordpress.com/2009/06/19/this-has-got-to-stop-ny-teenager-tortured-and-murdered-in-brutal-hate-crime/

Says: "There are a lot of people out there questioning whether this story may be a hoax; none of us bloggers have been able to find any mention of this in the MSM. The owner and other administrators of the discussion board where this story originated stand behind it, and the owner of the board posted that she has communicated with Raychel’s family and they are asking that no further details be released at this time. There is a vlog up on YouTube by a young person who says he is also a Teen Mentor on the site where Raychel mentored; the vlog and comments that follow fill in a few more details."

Here is the link to the vlog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3vOCA-EQRY
Keep in mind that this is no more solid as confirmation than the original source; he does say a couple of things that make the tie frame make more sense (he says that Raychel was conscious and able to speak at the hospital) and that the police have not issued a formal press release because the suspects, while identified, have not been apprehended.

No one is questioning Laura or the other moderator's veracity; I think that the real question here whether there is any possibility that this could all be an elaborate hoax. I think the question as to whether anyone has ever actually met (in person or via video) with Raychel.

It has now been over 48 hours since the assault allegedly occurred; and still no MSM coverage. That is enough me me to be taking this story down off my blog, for now. If we get better confirmation, I will re-post it.

Marja Erwin | June 20, 2009 5:18 PM

Unfortunately, both the blog and the video have been deleted. This is an insane mess for anyone trying to figure out what's going on. Judging by my personal experience and historical research, the silence of the mainstream media means absolutely nothing.

FYI, some of the links to the story on Laura's Playground have been removed. Sorry to be cautious/cynical, but no more information about this story has come out and I don't think it's a function of the family or the police. That's not really how news is disseminated in the U.S. nor does any media outlet really care what families feel in their time of loss.

The persons at Laura's Playground who originally forwarded this need to be open about what their sources of information were. Furthermore, I'm wondering if anyone at Laura's has ever actually spoken/met RachelRoo. Sad to say, but in my time spent on Trans forums, I've seen a number of 'very young highly passable transitioners' who ended up being Internet creations. I hope I'm right and this is what it is and not another case of young transwomen getting murdered (as in the Teish Green case). For those of you who wish to support justice in the Teish Green case, I've created a website at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=91245428796. The trial of her accused murderer is starting in mid-July.

Jackxthexpumpkinxking | June 20, 2009 3:32 PM

I don't believe any of us (us being the people at Laura's) has ever had face-to-face contact with Rachel/Roo. However at least one of the members has had a conversation with R over the phone. We all agree that things go not add up (I question how it was known that she traveled for three hours especially). Nevertheless, the reactions we had originally show how strong a community we are.

I've checked 20 NY state Newspapers and have not been able to confirm this story. Laura's Playground has not released any information in which I or anyone in the MSM can confirm this story.

Need the following:
Name of town in which the attack took place?
Name of the police or state trouper district this took place.
Name of the Hospital?
Need some help on this please..

I talked to Raychel almost everyday and she seemed like such a great person. she helped lots of TG people and always had good advice to give.

but she doesnt exist. It was all deceit. She has kept up an elaborate lie for a year. hearing of her death saddened me so much... but finding out that she lied makes me mad, but I am also relieved to hear that someone didn't really die. I will always remember Raychel, not for the lie, but for the friendship she gave me and the inspiration she gave me.

farewell Raychel... whoever you really are :(

I just heard that "Roo's" death was practically pulled from an episode of Nip/Tuck.

From what I can see from my searches, it seems that "Roo" never existed, and that she has played an elaborate game over the past year...

Whoever did this... is absolutely horrible. To play us all for fulls like this. *shakes head angrily*

If Roo never existed, or if Roo was somebody pretending to be a teen mentor - how did she become one without anyone on the site vetting her?

How do you put someone in the position of being a teen mentor - a mentor to extremely vulnerable teens - without checking out her credentials or even verifying her existence?

Can Jackxthexpumpkinxking or Laura please respond to these questions? My concern here is that teens are being given advice by someone who may, operative word may, not have been real to begin with. The fact that she, and perhaps others in the same position, may not have had any training to deal with trans teens ought to be a huge concern for us.

I don't want to jump the gun here, but I'd like to remind people that this does not, as has been claimed here and on the site, show how strong we are as a community. Instead, if it should turn out that Roo never existed, it shows that we've been careless about the kind of care we dispense to our own.

Jackxthexpumpkinxking | June 20, 2009 10:36 PM

"Qualifications to be a forum moderator are the same as the chat. You must be a regular user at least 21 years of age. You must be tolerant and sympathetic toward ALL forms of transgenderism. Your posts must show maturity and insight toward topics you are making or responding to. You must show a willingness to help others in need. If you meet that criteria, you could be considered a candidate for moderator."-from an admin (Maryellen)

I believe extensive background checks are not used for several reasons. Mainly, the site allows anonymity and would not wish to 'out' anyone for such a purpose. Logs record posts/messages by members as well as moderators and administrators, so it is not very difficult for Laura or a higher administrator to review conversations. Moderators are not confined to certain posts, but merely to Chat or The Forums. Therefore they are never completely 'alone.' This precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of the users. Mods/admins who act in ways deemed inappropriate are released from there duty and, in extreme cases, may be reported to the proper authorities.

While these methods are not perfect, they seem to work fairly well for the people at Laura's. Roo may have constructed hir identity, but ze never said anything offensive or counterproductive. Ze actually helped many users through hard times with zir advise and stories. Nevertheless, it was a lie and this is currently being looked into.

I meant no offense, by the way, in saying this showed that we are a strong community. I merelt meant that, they way the people at Laura's dealt with the false news of Roo's death, was commendable. I apologize for any confusion. I hope someone with more information than me will stop by and clarify, sorry.

Thanks, Jackxthexpumpkinxking,

That does clarify things, and I appreciate your response. I still have concerns about this, but it's best we all wait till we hear more. I imagine this is a confusing time for many of you connected to the website.

The person known as Raychel is not real. There were several other 'family' members involved in the story and they are not real either.

There is, at this point, no way to know if the person (posing as multiple people) is a trans person or not.

The only thing known for certain is that the person(s) who did this are not well. We may never know or understand what motivates someone to do something like this.

I think it is important to learn lessons from experiences such as this.

1. People you 'meet' on the internet are NOT real. No matter how real they seem, unless you have met them in person they are NOT real...be careful.
2. Chat forums are not safe places to share the most intimate moments of your life because you NEVER know who is listening and taking notes...be careful.
3. There are bad people in the world. They can use information you provide to hurt you mentally and physically...be careful.
4. Even carefully restricted, monitored and moderated lists cannot protect themselves completely from those who do not have honorable intentions...be careful.
5. If something doesn't seem quite right listen to your gut instincts...be careful.
6. If you don't want the whole world to know something about you then you might not want to post it any where on the internet...be careful.

So there you have it, Internet personal safety 101. No one believes they can be fooled like the folks on Laura's Playground were...until it happens to them...be careful.

Namaste,
Kim Pearson

Wise words from Kim. Another point I'd like to bring up concerns possible reasons why our community responded to this 'victim' the way it did. Raychel was created and targeted towards getting maximum 'cred' in a transforum. She was supposedly young, passable, post-op, talented in a field young women are involved in (dance), going to Julliard... etc.
Also, by hints, she was white: post-op (which takes money), Julliard, living in a smallish community in Upstate New York, riding a bicycle. Those are all societal codes for young white person. Sad to say, but our community values its members on such criteria. Contrast that with Teish Green, a real transwoman who was really murdered in a classic hate crime in Upstate New York back in November, 2008 (the trial for this is set to begin 7/13/09). She was African-American, not-yet passable, unemployed, still very much in the early process of transition, had no money and... her murder was greatly under reported. Many members of our community don't know about it and, moreover, believe African-American transwomen get murdered because they're sexworkers (not true in Teish's case). I hope this entire episode forces us to examine our community's values of how we value people and their 'status' within the community. We all need a serious wake-up call.

I'll add something I'd posted earlier at Zoe's and added to at Pam's:

Original thoughts: "It's catch-22 in reporting on something like this at this stage. Angie Zapata's murder was reported for nearly a week with old name and pronouns and no mention of being trans in the news until the community got p!$$ed off enough at the press that they listened (and look at the continued use of Lateisha Cannon's old name and references as a "gay male" in NY). I think it was Monica Roberts who first posted the article about Angie, saying "I have it on good information that..." and it took several more days to show her to be right."

(Although it's the kind of right you don't want to be)

---

The long and short of it is that it's not unusual for early news reporting of an incident to be delayed up to 24 hours, mess up details, use wrong names / pronouns to the point where media coverage bears no resemblance to facts that our community is reporting, and we're used to this. I guess that's why it makes it so impossibly easy to pull off something like this. And of course, if true, this would seem almost too important not to report.

In the future, I'd recommend at least mentioning in the body of the article that media sources have not been connected to this yet, awaiting confirmation, etc.

---

Regardless of the feeling of betrayal right now, I'd be questioning the person who perpetrated this, as to why someone who's apparently a regular face in the community is seeking attention like this.

First off, that is the biggest crock of shit I have ever heard. Secondly, while I appreciate that you (Jack)feel everyone is owed an explanation and mean well by posting the link, but I think that Laura is making this situation much worse by posting that for all to see. That entire "apology" is not even worthy of being called a hoax and frankly, Laura should TAKE IT DOWN from public view--it only serves to give this person more public attention, make the rest of you look gullible and reflect poorly on the entire community.