CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they have arrested two men accused of killing two transgender women in the last two weeks.
Police have charged Dontarius Long, 21, and Joel Brewer, 33, for the murders of Jaida Peterson, 29, and Remy Fennell. CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings called the two men very dangerous.
Officers said Peterson was killed on Easter Sunday. She was found fatally shot at the Quality Inn hotel on Queen City Drive in west Charlotte.
“She was somebody. She was a person. She was my child,” Peterson’s mother, Mary Peterson said.
Detectives said Fennell, who was also a sex worker, was shot and killed Thursday morning at the Sleep Inn on North Tryon Street near East W.T. Harris Boulevard.
Police said CMPD’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team, Union County Sheriff’s office and Marshville police arrested Brewer and Long Friday morning. Investigators believe the men traveled from Union County together and murdered Peterson and Fennell.
Police believe they are the only two suspects involved, and that there is no other risk to the public.
“Like I told her before I put her in the ground, I don’t care if it takes every breath in my body, I said, ‘I’m getting justice,’” Mary Peterson said. Jaida Peterson’s funeral was held this week.
Brewer is charged with two counts of murder, two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Long is charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Authorities said they’re still investigating the motive behind the murders, and are working with the FBI to determine if hate crime charges should be filed.
“It just saddened my heart. They’re human beings, too. They deserve to be loved just like the next person,” Peterson said. “For them to kill by baby, they didn’t have to do that.”
On Thursday, authorities had urged the community to be on alert after reporting the murders happened just 11 days apart. Police were concerned someone was targeting transgender women.
CMPD urged members of the LGBTQ community who are “engaged in sex work to exercise extreme caution” and to call 911 to report anything suspicious.
Rell Lowery, of Charlotte Black Pride, is a liaison with the transgender community and said the latest killings are a scary reality in the community.
“This is something, unfortunately, they have to face every single day they walk out their front door,” Lowery said. “There is a chance that they may not make it home safely.”
He said the community is focused on ensuring that the stories of Peterson and Fennell are heard and that their deaths help inspire change.
“We hope it’s not a trend that starts in Charlotte,” Lowery said Friday. “That’s why we are going to definitely make sure we bring that awareness today and going forward.”
Lowery said next week all LGBTQ groups in Charlotte will have a meeting to discuss ways the community can stop the violence. They will also talk about how to ensure transgender people and all members of the LGBTQ community are safe.
“We need to see you,” Lowery said. “We need to hear your voice, and we need your support.”
Channel 9 spoke with a friend of Peterson on Thursday.
“Jaida treated everyone with kindness and respect,” Peacock said.
Violence against transgender women is common, which is something Peacock is familiar with.
“Jaida had her fears about society and what society could do but one thing about Jaida is, Jaida trusted in the Lord in all that she did,” Peacock said.
Matt Comer with Charlotte Pride said the response from organizations and leaders has been immediate, with outreach to ensure people are protected.
“Please stay vigilant,” Comer said. “Check in with your friends, your family.”
Investigators said they are also searching for additional victims and are urging them to call 911.
“We are working to see if something could be connected to these cases,” Tufano said. “If there might be something bigger here.”