News (USA)

Police arrest gay man suspected of dismembering 14-year-old trans girl

A mugshot of DaShawn Watkins. age 29, and Pauly Likens, age 14.
DaShawn Watkins and Pauly Likens Photo: WPXI screenshot

Police discovered the dismembered body parts of 14-year-old transgender teen Pauly Likens scattered around Shenango River Lake in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. Officials arrested 29-year-old gay man DaShawn Watkins and charged him with aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. However, he has not yet been charged with a hate crime.

Investigators say that Watkins met Likens on June 22, killed her with sharp force trauma to her head, and used a saw to cut her limbs from her body. Security cameras showed Watkins repeatedly leaving his house on June 24 with garbage and duffle bags — police believe he carried Likens’ body parts in them. The exact nature of Likens and Watkins’ relationship remains unclear.

“Only an absolute monster could do something like that to anyone, let alone a child,” Pauly’s aunt, Liz Morsillo, told WPXI.

Likens was reported missing on June 24, and police discovered her body parts less than 24 hours later near the Golden Run Wildlife Area near Shenango River Reservoir, Pink News reported.

Police say that cell phone records, social media, and surveillance video all link Watkins to the crime, The Washington Blade reported. Police also reported found traces of Likens’s blood in and around Watkins’s apartment.

Watkins claimed the bags were luggage from a vacation.

Watkins is now being held without bail in the Mercer County jail. But even though Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker called the murder one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 46 years as an attorney, he said that the Pennsylvania State Police do not consider it a hate crime because Watkins is gay and Likens is trans.

While it is entirely possible for an LGBTQ+-identified person to target another person for their actual or perceived queer identity, prosecutors sometimes avoid pursuing hate crime charges if they believe it will be too difficult to prove them in court. Hate crime charges are often proven by pointing to hateful statements made by the accused.

“The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” Acker said in an email statement. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

A GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign for Likens’ funeral and associated costs stated, “Pauly was taken from us far too soon due to a senseless act of violence. They were a bright and loving individual, cherished by all who knew them. Their life was filled with promise and potential, and their untimely passing has left a void that can never be filled.”

While the crowdfunding campaign page said that “the funds will assist the family in managing their day-to-day needs as they take time off work to grieve and begin the long journey toward healing,” it has since been disabled after raising $3,593 “due to a lot of confusion on social media,” the campaign’s organizer, Sarah Wolfe wrote.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Jury finds killer of Blaze Bernstein guilty of murder and a hate crime

Previous article

Trump-loving gays say their MAGA support is ruining their lives

Next article