Two years out, no movement in Blahnik case

It was National Coming Out Day in 2010 when Stacey Blahnik was murdered in her home. Two years later, her killer remains at large.

Police last year identified a person of interest in the case, but that person has yet to be named a suspect, and no arrests have been made.

Blahnik, 31, was killed Oct. 11 in her house in the 1800 block of Manton Street in South Philadelphia. Investigators believe she was strangled with a pillowcase.

A transwoman, she served as house mother for the House of Blahnik.

Homicide Capt. James Clarke said last year that there was DNA evidence that placed the person of interest at the house, but it was not enough to warrant an arrest.

Police spokesperson Lt. Ray Evers told PGN this week that investigators “don’t have much new.”

“They have some folks at the house but that’s still where they’re at,” Evers said.

Damon Humes, founder of House of Blahnik, said Blahnik’s survivors worry that the case could fall to the wayside because of the identity of the victim.

“We feel like had it not been a trans person, there would have been more attention to finding and capturing the person who did this to her,” Humes said. “It reminds us all how alive and kicking transphobia really is, as well as heterosexism and all the other ‘isms’ we fight against every day.”

Gloria Casarez, director of the city’s LGBT affairs, said the most alarming aspect of the unsolved murder is that the person responsible remains free.

“The biggest frustration is that there is still a killer on the loose,” she said, noting that the recent murder of transwoman Kyra Cordova reiterated that idea for many in the community. “Kyra’s case brought this all back for a lot of people. It was a reminder, and it wasn’t a pleasant reminder, that there are murderers out there and there are unsolved murders in our community. These cases need timely eyewitness participation, and I think when you don’t have that, you’re going to have a harder time.”

No eyewitnesses have come forward in Blahnik’s case.

Evers noted, however, that people need to remain alert and pass on any helpful information.

“Sometimes when homicides get into the second, third or fourth year, people start talking. Someone might know something and be at a restaurant or bar and start talking,” Evers said. “We need to keep it fresh in people’s minds that this killer who killed this person lives in that community. He killed someone, and will he kill again? I don’t know. But he has a propensity for violence, and people need to keep that at the forefront.”

Evers said the Homicide Department has a 70-75 percent clearance rate for cases.

“Unfortunately, this one falls into that 25 percent where we’re not getting the information we would like,” he said.

Casarez said Blahnik’s loved ones are still reeling from the murder, and their grief is compounded by the dearth of justice.

“Whenever there’s a loss like this, when someone is taken, there’s a hole left for the people who loved her and knew her. When there’s a situation like this where the case is unsolved, it’s so much more unresolved,” she said. “Every time I see people who were close to her, that’s the first thing I think about. It’s hard for the people who knew her and for the community as a whole. I know it was on everyone’s minds when we learned about Kyra. Just like when we learned about Stacey, many of us thought about [murdered transwoman] Nizah [Morris]. You remember those unresolved cases and just hope for a better outcome.”

Humes said LGBT community members should continue to “hold the police department accountable for continuing to work on this case and make sure it doesn’t fall off their radar.”

He said his house is in the midst of establishing programs to immortalize Blahnik’s legacy, which he said can be helpful for healing.

“We need to remember her goodness so that her life was not in vain,” he said. “We want to remind people what her life meant. She was more than a transwoman: She was a friend, a partner, an auntie, all those things. We want to keep her legacy alive.”