Questions remain surrounding death of trans woman

Tatiana Hall Photo: Facebook

The body of Tatiana Hall, a trans woman of color, was found in Fairmount Park earlier this summer. The medical examiner’s office attributed Hall’s death to an accidental overdose of drugs. But questions continue to surround the woman’s death.

Hall, 22, lived in Irvington, N.J., a small town on the outskirts of Newark. She was apparently visiting Philadelphia on June 29 when her body was discovered on the 4700 block of N. Georges Hill Drive, in the western section of the park.

Additional information wasn’t available from police. “We don’t release information related to incidents involving [an] accidental overdose,” a police spokesperson said in an email.

Friends of Hall told BuzzFeed LGBTQ that Hall possibly was visiting a boyfriend who lives in Philadelphia, but they didn’t know his name. They only knew that he’s a 38-year-old bald man of color.

On July 9, family members and friends held a vigil for Hall in Newark. They told BuzzFeed that Hall was a devout fashionista who dreamed of opening her own boutique or clothing line someday. “She loved to dress,” said one relative, who declined to be identified. “She loved to keep her hair and her nails done. She had the prettiest smile and she just liked to have fun.”

During the vigil, some friends expressed concern that Hall was the victim of foul play. “Something is very, very wrong,” one person said to BuzzFeed. Friends also said Hall didn’t use drugs other than occasional marijuana use. They questioned why Hall would commute 90 minutes to Philadelphia to use drugs, when drugs would have been accessible to her in Newark.

A  relative of Hall who asked to remain unidentified told BuzzFeed that she had many questions about Hall’s death. “Who was she with?” the relative asked. “Who was the last person who saw her? How did she get where they found her?”

The same relative also expressed concern about Hall’s boyfriend. “That’s the only person [Hall] knew out there,” she told BuzzFeed. “She wouldn’t just be walking the street. I believe that’s who she was with — or someone he knows. If something did happen to her as far as somebody drugging her or doing something to her, we don’t know who this is. And he could do it to someone else.”

James Garrow, a spokesperson for the medical examiner’s office, told PGN he didn’t have access to details about Hall’s death — other than her name, date of her death, cause of her death and manner of her death. Garrow said Hall’s death was due to an accidental drug overdose.

Naiymah Sanchez, a local transgender leader, expressed concern about Hall’s death. “Another death of a trans woman on the streets of Philly, whether foul play or accidental — the emotions in the community are uneasy with this report of Tatiana’s death,” Sanchez said. “I want community members to feel safe. I want to feel safe. But the only thing we feel is fear. I would hope the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office fully investigated this case and left no stone unturned in the death of Tatiana. If there is anyone in the community who is having a hard time emotionally, please reach out to me or other leaders in the community for resources. We can only support each other, at this point. And wish for a better tomorrow.”

Julie Chovanes, a trans attorney, echoed Sanchez’s sentiments. “Trans women of color are among our poorest and most disadvantaged people. And we ignore them. And so they die,” Chovanes said. “There are so many groups — yet so little help given to these poor women. Why can’t we do better?”

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the Keystone Press.