Suspect in slaying of transwoman and activist to stand trial

The North Philadelphia man charged with murdering transwoman and activist Tameka Michelle Washington last month signed a statement saying he shot her during an altercation surrounding an alleged gun sale, Homicide Detective John Harkins testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Troy Bailey, 28, gave police the statement in the evening of May 20 describing a dispute in which he met Washington — who he knew as “Michelle” — to sell her a gun for her boyfriend for $600. When Washington didn’t have the funds, she allegedly responded “suck my dick,” and pulled out a black folding pocket knife, and Bailey shot her, Harkins said, reading from a written summary of Bailey’s video confession that was not played in court.

Washington, 40, died May 19 at 5:33 a.m. at Temple University Hospital after sustaining three gunshot wounds — one to the head and two to the torso. No pocket knife was found at the crime scene on the 3400 block of North 11th Street, Harkins said.

Around 6:10 a.m., Bailey showed up at the crime scene to retrieve his cell phone, which he left there. He identified himself as a witness to police and willingly followed them, along with his girlfriend Ayana Coulter, 29, to provide testimony, which he signed.

That evening, Coulter provided her own account and police noticed discrepancies in the two stories, Harkins said. This made Bailey become a suspect and prompted a search of his home on the 1100 block of West Venango Street.

Detectives discovered a magazine and gun box for a Taurus 9mm handgun in Bailey’s bedroom, said Harkins, who led the search. Using serial numbers found on the gun box, police traced the gun back to Coulter.

Police proceeded to search Coulter’s home, on the 4800 block of North Broad Street, where they found a gun of the same type on top of a kitchen cabinet with the serial numbers scratched off, Harkins said. Four fired casings from a 9mm were discovered at the crime scene, the detective testified.

Being confronted with the police’s discovery of the firearm prompted Bailey to confess to the shooting, Harkins said. The gun has been processed for fingerprints, swabbed for DNA and will undergo ballistic tests.

Defense attorney Shawn Kendricks Page Sr. drew attention to how the serial number found on the gun box in Bailey’s bedroom was registered to Coulter, both Coulter and Bailey returned to the crime scene after Washington’s death and the gun was found in Coulter’s house. When asked if Coulter knew Washington, Harkins said Coulter “knows of” her.

Judge Wendy Pew ruled to hold Bailey for court. He is being charged with murder, unlawful possession of a firearm and other offenses. The case will continue this month.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Toczylowski declined to comment on motive in the case or the validity of Bailey’s account.

But Washington’s younger sister Crystal Davis, 35, said she didn’t believe Bailey. Seeing him made the whole ordeal feel real, she added, noting she had been trying to phone Washington around the time of her death.  

“I only ever had one question…which is, ‘Why?’” Davis said. “Outside of that, she’s not here. If you can’t tell me why she’s not here, there’s nothing else I really care about. She left behind a lot of people who cared.”

Posted: 6/5/19 2:00 p.m.

Update: 6/5/19 7:44 p.m. More to come as story develops.