California man charged in transgender activist's choking murder

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 09, 2014 9:27 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man accused of killing a Southern California transgender activist and dumping her body behind a fast-food restaurant was charged with murder on Thursday, but prosecutors said they lacked evidence to prove the case was a hate crime.

Randy Lee Parkerson, 38, was charged with a single count of murder in the slaying of Zoraida Reyes, whose body was found behind a Dairy Queen restaurant in Anaheim this summer, Orange County prosecutors said.

Parkerson is accused of meeting with Reyes, 29, on June 10 and choking her to death, then keeping her body in the trunk of his car for a day before dumping it behind the restaurant, according to charging documents.

Parkerson was arrested in his car on Tuesday in Anaheim, not far from where Reyes' remains were discovered. An arraignment scheduled for Thursday afternoon was postponed until later this month at the request of defense attorneys.

Friends and community activists have said they believe the killing of Reyes, who was born a man but identified as a woman, was likely a hate crime, but police said their investigation found no evidence she was targeted for her gender identity, and prosecutors did not make those accusations part of their case against Parkerson.

"We made all of those filing considerations and there was insufficient evidence that it was a hate crime," said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Schroeder declined to say what motivated the crime or how Parkerson and Reyes knew each other.

Authorities have not said what evidence they have linking Parkerson to the killing of Reyes, who had been active in several transgender and immigrant rights groups in Orange County. Her death prompted a vigil in a local park that drew some 200 people.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Reyes, who was identified in court documents as Cesar, had been born in Michoacan, Mexico, and attended high school in Southern California before earning an associate degree from Santa Ana College.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)