On September 10th, 2007, a transgender prostitute working in the Tenderloin was found naked and left for dead on a street across town.
Two weeks later on September 24th, another transgender prostitute was found in a similar state in the Western Addition, where she had fled following a pistol whipping from her attacker.
Over a year later on February 5th, 2008, a severely battered transgender woman was found in Potrero Hill, and spent 15 days recovering in San Francisco General.
Reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle have now learned that all three woman were victims of the same attacker, and more surprisingly that these attacks may have been averted, had DNA linked to the crimes not been allowed to gather dust for two years in a San Francisco crime lab.
The attacker is identified as 41 year old South San Francisco resident Donzell Francis, presently in custody awaiting kidnapping and sexual assault charges for a wave of transgender attacks that began with the 2007 rape and slaying of Ruby Ordenana. DNA samples taken from the scene of Ordenana’s death were shelved for over two years in the lab, and only this past September linked to Francis’ DNA. Francis has been in the DNA databank since 2004, after a serious crime in 2001 where he slashed a woman’s face with a razor blade landed him in jail for five years.
Assistant Police Chief Kevin Cashman told reporters that the crime lab used to suffer from perpetual back log. It was once priority to review DNA samples in crimes where the suspects were already identified. He assured reporters that the protocol has since changed.
The case with Francis is a stark reminder of the high rate of unsolved cases in violent crimes against transgender men and women. The International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. ITDR was conceived following the November 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a crime that has yet to be solved.
On their website, the founders of ITDR have compiled a database of all violent crimes perpetrated against transgender men and women since 1995. According to their data, a recent wave of international crimes have skyrocketed the rate of violent attacks to an average of 11 per month since January 2009.