Judge issues arrest warrant for key witness in trans murder

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Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter this week issued an arrest warrant for a key witness in the murder case of trans man Mar’Quis Jackson, to help ensure the witness testifies in the case.

Jackson’s battered body was discovered Dec. 14, 2022 by his mother, Tara Jackson, who had been searching for him. The body had been lying in frigid weather for about 15 hours in the backyard of Charles Mitchell on the 1800 block of Brunner Street in the Nicetown section.

Police initially detained Mitchell for questioning regarding Jackson’s death. But Mitchell was released due to lack of evidence. Mitchell subsequently fled to Nevada but turned himself in to authorities in April 2023 and was extradited back to Philadelphia.

Mitchell, 40, has been charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He remains held without bail at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia.

A key witness in the murder case was subpoenaed to testify at Mitchell’s preliminary hearing on June 20. However, the witness failed to appear, prompting Assistant District Attorney Lauren M. Crump to request an arrest warrant.

Shuter agreed to issue an arrest warrant to help ensure the witness attends a preliminary hearing for Mitchell, which has been rescheduled for Aug. 9. Preliminary hearings are held to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to hold a defendant for trial.

At the request of prosecutors, PGN is withholding the name of the witness. Prosecutors said it could be more difficult to secure her cooperation if her name were widely known in the media. She’s believed to have valuable information about the incident and may have been present at the time of Jackson’s death.

The witness shared information about the incident with Jackson’s mother, which made it possible for the mother to locate her son’s body in Mitchell’s backyard. 

The mother — Tara Jackson — along with her boyfriend Matthew Kemp and numerous friends and relatives of the victim were present in Shuter’s courtroom on June 20. They declined to comment until the case is adjudicated, explaining they didn’t want to jeopardize the outcome.

Jackson was born and raised in South Carolina. Immediately prior to his death, he lived in the Germantown section of the city. He was heavily involved in transgender activism, which included supporting the William Way LGBT Community Center and the Transgender Legal Defense Fund among other causes. He celebrated his 33rd birthday only two days before his death, friends said.

According to court records, the medical examiner’s office declared Jackson’s death a homicide due to blunt-force head injuries.