Reyna Hernandez, a Latina Trans Woman Missing Since February, Has Been Found Dead

This story contains descriptions of violence against a transgender woman.

Reyna Hernandez, a Latina trans woman and salon owner from Washington, was found dead in a cemetery in northern Mexico, officials have confirmed. She was 54 years old.

Hernandez, the owner of Reyna Hair Salon in Renton, WA, first went missing on February 26, according to local news reports. On March 8, police in Mexicali — the capital city of Baja California in Mexico — recovered a body lying in a cemetery along the side of the Tijuana Highway, who Renton police have now identified as Hernandez, per a press release on the department’s Facebook page. Officials also confirmed to local news station KCPQ that Hernandez had apparently been tortured before her death: in addition to a fatal gunshot wound, her hands and feet were bound, and her body was wrapped in a blanket.

Mexican police have a suspect in custody, a 61-year-old Renton resident who was arrested on unrelated charges, according to the release. The person’s name has not been officially released, but Hernandez’s family told local news station KCPQ that he was Hernandez’s partner. Some of Hernandez’s salon clients also told KCPQ that she had recently come to work with a black eye. Renton police said they are investigating Hernandez’s death as a case of domestic violence, and that they will coordinate with Mexican authorities to extradite Hernandez’s suspected killer if evidence shows she was killed within U.S. borders. People also confirmed that Renton police will seek kidnapping charges, regardless of where the killing took place.

Sara Carillo, Hernandez’s sister, told KCPQ that Hernandez had been in a relationship with the suspect for 30 years, and affirmed that she was a victim of domestic abuse. Carillo also remembered her sister as a “dreamer,” hard-working, and kind.

“I walk into the salon and I smell her perfume, sense her joy, and hear all the stories that people share when they come,” Carillo told the station in Spanish.

News of Hernandez’s death comes not long after three other trans women were murdered in Mexico in January alone, all shot to death. In November last year, Jesús Ociel Baena Saucedo, Mexico’s first openly nonbinary judge, was also stabbed to death in their Aguascalientes home.

“Reyna’s brutal murder sheds light on the pervasive danger faced by trans individuals, particularly trans women of color,” representatives for the TransLatin@ Coalition wrote in a statement mourning the deaths of Hernandez and 16-year-old Nex Benedict last week. “These incidents underscore the urgent need to address how institutional violence translates into interpersonal violence against our community.”

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