A verdict of first-degree murder was handed down to Jorge Sanders-Galvez, 23, for brutally killing Kedarie Johnson in March, 2016. Johnson was 16-years old, and though considered different he was well liked by classmates and most of the Burlington, Iowa community.
Johnson occasionally would dress in women’s clothes, and don hair weaves and painted fingernails. His mother, Katrina Johnson, considered him gender fluid. Though Johnson was widely accepted and liked, there were at least two men in the town of approximately 25, 000 who disagree.
Found in an alley behind a row of homes in Burlington, Johnson had been shot, his body doused with bleach and gagged with a plastic bag. His assailants, Jorge Sanders-Galvez and Jaron Purham, were arrested for the murder and the case drew the attention of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
As Sessions is a conservative and a believer that gender is wholly defined at birth, it was surprising to equal rights groups that at the request of Sessions, the Justice Department became involved with the case, sending in an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer to assist in the case. In addition, a federal grand jury was being convened to investigate the death of Johnson as a possible hate crime.
Iowa’s hate crimes statute doesn’t include gender identity, and last year’s efforts to add it to the state law failed.
On Friday, a jury convicted Sanders-Galvez of first-degree murder. The verdict could see Sanders-Galvez sentenced to life in prison. It could however also halt the Justice Department’s decision to file federal hate crimes charges.
Purham also faces a charge of first-degree murder for Johnson’s death and his trial begins later this month.