September 16, 2020 at 8:36 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Tijuana authorities criticized over handling of transgender woman’s murder
Jeanine Huerta L贸pez

Jeanine Huerta L贸pez (Photo courtesy of Diana Jim茅nez L贸pez)

TIJUANA, Mexico 鈥 The family of a transgender woman who was murdered in Tijuana last month has sharply criticized the way that local authorities have handled the case.

Local media reports indicate Jeanine Huerta L贸pez鈥檚 best friend found her dead in her apartment in Tijuana鈥檚 Francisco Villa neighborhood on Aug. 28. Her sister, Diana Jim茅nez L贸pez, on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Blade during a telephone interview from California that Huerta had stab wounds throughout her body.

Huerta was reportedly last seen at a Birthday party on Aug. 24.

Jim茅nez told the Blade her sister was born in Puerto Vallarta, but grew up in San Bernardino County. Jim茅nez said she moved to Tijuana around 12 years ago after she graduated from high school.

Huerta worked for Centro de Servicios Ser A.C., a group that provides health care and other services to the LGBTQ community and people with HIV/AIDS in Tijuana. Jim茅nez told the Blade her sister was also a sex worker.

鈥淪he was a kind-hearted soul,鈥 said Jim茅nez. 鈥淪he really helped others whenever she could.鈥

Huerta鈥檚 mother, Dolores L贸pez, told the Blade that Huerta bought food for people during the coronavirus lockdown in Tijuana. L贸pez also said her daughter previously worked as an interpreter for a Mexican telephone company.

鈥淪he was an activist,鈥 L贸pez told the Blade. 鈥淪he was a very, very hard worker.鈥

Body not properly stored in morgue

Jim茅nez said it took a week for her to claim her sister鈥檚 body because authorities identified her by her birth name, even though the friend who found her provided them with the correct spelling of her name.

Jim茅nez said she had to identify her sister鈥檚 鈥渄ecomposed body鈥 twice 鈥渏ust so they would release the body to me.鈥 Jim茅nez also told the Blade the morgue did not properly store her sister鈥檚 body.

鈥淲hen I had to see my sister, it was a horrific smell,鈥 she said. 鈥淭here were worms crawling on her. She had no hair. It was just the worst thing that anybody should have to see.鈥

鈥淚鈥檓 not sure why I had to see my sister鈥檚 body twice in order for them to release her to me,鈥 added Jim茅nez.

L贸pez echoed Jim茅nez鈥檚 anguish.

鈥淚t鈥檚 been hard because of all the things that Diana had to go through to recover her body,鈥 said L贸pez. 鈥淸It鈥檚 been] very painful.鈥

The morgue released Huerta鈥檚 body to Jim茅nez on Sept. 2. She was buried in Puerto Vallarta the next day.

L贸pez told the Blade her mother and Huerta鈥檚 brothers were able to attend the funeral. L贸pez said she could not travel to Mexico because she is undocumented.

U.S. Embassy condemns murder, urges thorough investigation

Authorities have not made any arrests in connection with Huerta鈥檚 murder. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico in a Sept. 1 tweet urged them to thoroughly investigate it.

鈥淲e are shocked by the murder of Jeanine, an activist for the rights of the LGBT community, in Baja California,鈥 reads the tweet. 鈥淎uthorities should carry out a thorough investigation to find those responsible and give justice to Jeanine.鈥

Centro de Servicios Ser A.C. in a lengthy statement echoed the embassy鈥檚 call for a thorough investigation. The group also urged Baja California lawmakers to add a formal recognition of murder based on gender identity to the state鈥檚 Penal Code.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 feel like the authorities are putting much effort into her case because she was trans,鈥 Jim茅nez told the Blade. 鈥淭hey started off the investigation, trying to brush it off as maybe it鈥檚 just another case. It鈥檚 just not another case. She was my sister and just because she was trans doesn鈥檛 mean she should be treated unequally.鈥

The Blade has reached out to the Tijuana Municipal Police Department and the Baja California Attorney General鈥檚 office for comment.

鈥榃e seek justice for Jeanine鈥

Centro de Servicios Ser A.C. on Aug. 30 held a memorial service for Huerta at their Tijuana offices. Many of the activists who attended wore t-shirts that read, 鈥渨e seek justice for Jeanine.鈥

Centro de Servicios Ser A.C. in the statement it issued after Huerta鈥檚 death also noted Mexico is the second most dangerous country in Latin America for LGBTQ people. It cited statistics that indicate more than half of the 473 reported victims of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes in the country between 2012-2018 were trans women.

鈥淛eanine, we promise you that we are going to keep your fighting spirit and fervent conviction that our lives must be respected and lived with dignity alive,鈥 reads the Centro de Servicios Ser A.C. statement. 鈥淲e are in pain. We are sad, but we are also angry and not powerless because we will fight to ensure that no other transgender woman has to suffer the agony that you suffered and that deprived you of your hopeful smile.鈥

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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