News (USA)

New Mexico coroner says trans woman who died in ICE custody wasn’t killed by officers

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez
Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez Photo: Transgender Law Center

A new autopsy report on transgender Honduran refugee Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez has been released.

Last year, Hernández Rodriguez’s death in a New Mexico Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility operated by a private corporation made national headlines.

An independent autopsy said that she showed “symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV” at the end of her life in the ICE facility. It also alleged that she was likely beaten by officers before her death.

“According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernández Rodriguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill,” forensic pathologist Kris Sperry wrote in last year’s autopsy report.

Related: ICE refuses to release mandatory report on how a trans asylum seeker died in their custody

Now the state of New Mexico is saying that she died due to unrelated complications from HIV.

The autopsy report says that Hernández Rodriguez died of multicentric Castleman disease, a condition she couldn’t fight off because she was HIV-positive.

“This case has taken almost a year to close because the autopsy was complex and required additional testing and consultation. We wanted to ensure we answered all the questions we could about Ms. Hernandez’s death,” said Chief Medical Investigator Kurt Nolte.

“We know that releasing her autopsy report will bring a flood of emotions for them,” he continued. “We have done our best to ensure her cause and manner of death were fully investigated to hopefully provide some level of closure.”

The report mentions injuries to Hernández Rodriguez’s body, but says that they are consistent with “physically forceful CPR.”

The Transgender Law Center has criticized the new autopsy report.

“The NM OMI dragged their feet in releasing Roxsana’s autopsy report only to let ICE run the show and use the report to do their dirty work of shirking responsibility for her care,” said TLC’s director of litigation Lynly Egyes.

“It’s absolutely appalling that they presented their findings to ICE prior to offering those findings to Roxsana’s family’s legal representatives.”

“Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV,” Egyes said when last year’s autopsy findings were released. “Her death was entirely preventable.”

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