Advocacy groups raise flag at alarming rate of transgender violence, including one eastern Carolina woman

Jenna Franks, 34, was discovered in a creek off Ellis Boulevard in Jacksonville in February. Her autopsy said she had been stabbed multiple times.
Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:11 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - 2021 is on-track to be the deadliest year for people who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.

So far this year, according to The Human Rights Campaign, 28 people who identify as transgender have been killed. It’s climbing close to the record set in 2020, when 44 deaths were investigated as homicides.

“There’s a lot of stigma around,” said Lillie Campos, a counselor for the Onslow County LGBTQ Center who identifies as transgender, herself. “It’s not safe for us out there.”

Campos was a counselor to Jenna Franks, 34, when she arrived in Jacksonville. Franks’ body was found severely decomposed in a creek near Ellis Boulevard in Jacksonville. It’s being investigated as a hate crime, but no arrests have been made yet.

“We spent hours on the phone,” said Campos. “Whether she was in crisis or whether she was bragging about just getting her nails done.”

Franks’ autopsy, released earlier this month, revealed that she had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and leg area. The autopsy did not go so far as to determine the cause of death.

“It was really nice watching her come from a bad place to a good place,” said Campos. “There was so much hope in her and I had so much hope for her. When I got the call that something had happened to her, it really hurt me. It really shook me.”

Campos said neither she nor others in her community are able to walk the streets unafraid again, at least until Franks’ killer is caught. But even then, she said, the trends of violence against the transgender community are terrifying.

“I have children at home that expect me to come home. And I want to come home to them,” said Campos. “I think about it every day. I really would love to know who did this. And why. So we could all get closure but so also I know that somebody’s not out here loose.”

Jacksonville Police and the FBI are offering a combined $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case. Anyone with information should call the FBI at 704-672-6100 or Jacksonville Police Department Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273.

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