Death of a Maiden

Dj was a survivor in Miami's perilous world of transsexual hookers -- that is, until she met a customer named Bowlegs

Throw into the mix a sexually confused teenager, prone to violence, physically at odds with the world, and chances are someone's going to get hurt. Precious first met Bowlegs in early April. She was taking a break, talking with some of the other girls in the parking lot of the Bahamian Kitchen on NW 79th Street and Seventh Avenue. Bowlegs rolled up on a shiny red BMX bicycle with chrome pedals. I saw that little midget on a bike, and I was laughing, Precious says. I was like, What's this little thing doing up here?'One of the girls, Sexy, explained that she had met Bowlegs earlier on a local phone chat line specifically for transvestites and transgender types. Sexy said Bowlegs asked her on a date. She went to his home on 78th Street and Ninth Avenue to pick him up. When she saw his deformity, she tried to get out of it. But he was adamant about having sex with her, and she relented, according to Precious: He wanted to screw her, but she didn't screw him; she just let him suck her [dick].

Now Bowlegs was back for more. And he was in a good mood, Precious recalls. He laughed and joked with the girls. She noticed he was wearing a chunky gold chain and a watch. Precious warned him: Child, you better take off that jewelry before someone robs you. Bowlegs didn't say anything; he simply pulled up his shirt and took out a handgun with a black handle. Precious was not impressed: Child, you better get a little toy gun, because that gun is gonna blow you down the street. According to Precious he smiled slowly and replied, You can't handle what I got.

Gun or no gun, all Bowlegs got was a few condescending laughs. Déjà was not present for this. Precious says she was around the corner working.

Detective Ford, standing near the scene of the crime, found an unlikely suspect collared by some unlikely vigilantes
Detective Ford, standing near the scene of the crime, found an unlikely suspect collared by some unlikely vigilantes

A couple of weeks later, well after midnight, Bowlegs returned. Again he was on his bike. Again he made a beeline for the girls, who tend to cluster together. This time he had a friend with him, a tall boy with dreadlocks. They were lurking in the shadows behind some buildings. My friend, she come up to me and she's like, You know that little midget and a tall boy are back there trying to rob people,' Precious says. She filed the information away as one of the numerous tips the girls exchange to help navigate the night. Later she saw Bowlegs at NW 79th and Eighth Avenue. He was coming around the corner and he said, Come here.' And I said, No, you're up to something.' And he started lifting his shirt. In the dull glow of the street lamps, Precious saw two handguns. She backed up. Just then one of her regulars pulled up. Precious jumped into his car, her heart thumping.

A short time later, when her trick dropped her off at the same corner, Precious says she saw the tall boy with the dreadlocks robbing a john while the hooker, also a transsexual, ran away. Things were heating up.

Bowlegs, however, was nowhere in sight.

In fact he was several blocks away, riding his bike east to Biscayne, where he turned right, according to witnesses. He wheeled down to Déj, who was standing on the corner of 73rd Street. It was about 3:00 a.m. Stephanie was working the other side of the street. She saw Bowlegs talking to Déj. She recognized him because he had solicited her for sex several weeks earlier, but she declined. I got a bad vibe from him, she recalls.

As Stephanie watched, Déj and her diminutive date walked behind 7300 Biscayne, a peach-color, boarded-up building across the street from an antique store. A passing motorist told police he saw Bowlegs on his bicycle and Déjà on her knees performing oral sex. As the witness drove past, he heard a single shot.

She must have tried running away; I saw her collapsed on 73rd Street, Stephanie recalls. I was so hysterical. I ran up to her and said, Déj, what happened? Who shot you?' And she said, That little midget on the bicycle.'

Minutes later and several blocks away, back on 79th Street, Precious says she saw Bowlegs pedal his bike furiously past her, a handbag similar to Déj's swinging from the handlebars.

When Precious heard that Déj had been shot, she borrowed a relative's car and zoomed to the hospital. They said she was in surgery. They were trying to stop the bleeding, Precious recalls. So I went over to my house, took a bath, and lay down. They called me early in the morning saying she was dead. In ten years on the street, Pilar and Déj are the only two girls Precious has known who were killed on the job. Their deaths were four months apart.The day after Déj's murder, the girls frantically called one another on the phone. Sexy wanted to go to the authorities and explain that they had seen Bowlegs with Déj. But Precious was dead set against it, and others agreed.We said, It's time for us to start sticking together, because the police do not care. Look how they treated Pilar. What makes you think they'll do anything about Déj?' In fact Precious believed if the police began asking questions, Bowlegs would hear about it. [Sexy] was like, Let's go down to the police.' But I said, No, that'll just give [Bowlegs] a reason to run.'

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If I may, my name is Francesca Michaelson. I knew Deja and now she is dead, murdered. I tried to post this to the Miami CBS affiliate but I do not know if they will print this. Please share this, let our outrage be heard.

I am sick, my heart and soul scream for justice for this woman, though born physically male, she was one of the many transgender individuals in this country. She was poor, yes, miserable even. But SHE was human. I knew her here in Brooklyn, NY where I live, an activist for AIDS testing and prevention, calling out to people explaining the need and urgency to protect themselves from this infirmity. She was friend to many and her absence in our lives will leave a hole that will take a long time to fill. In the web post you repeatedly refer to Deja as a “transvestite” and a “prostitute “with several references to her criminal past and questionable occupation; such a lack of professionalism I have not seen, ever! I dare use the antiquated term “yellow journalism” because instead of reporting her death with due consideration to her and her memory you went the way of the whore you accuse her to have been and now you would stand and inform the people, to communicate to them an incident that occurred with such a jejune attitude toward the victim as though she, and yes I say SHE, was not a valuable member of society. It is statistically evident that the majority of transsexuals are not given the same employment and educational opportunities that are available to the general public at large. Could it be that your callous disregard for Deja's person and memory and HER struggles merit nothing of consideration? Did you victimize her in death like she was victimized in life for no other reason than sensationalism and ratings? Sellers of dirty laundry you are! You should be ashamed, we owed HER better. I consider myself lucky because as a transsexual I am not the norm, the stereotype as it were. I am educated and presently returning to college for an advanced degree program and I have my family’s support of my decision to transition into a female, even though there are members of my family that do not agree with it. Life is hard enough for a transgender person with its struggles and pitfalls common to everyone and then again more so by the laissez-faire attitude with which her death was reported. It reminds me of another death many, many years ago, one Marilyn Monroe (nee Norma Jean Mortenson); found dead in her apartment of an apparent suicide and the press like rabid dogs fought each other to report first the fact she was found naked without regard to what may have drove her to suicide or if it even was. The bile is rising in my throat so I must stop writing. If it isn't too much trouble, next time this happens, and it probably will soon, have a care for those of us left behind. I carry the hope that she is in a better place now, easier to believe because I have had the first-hand experiences to know the Hell transgender people deal with quotidianly. May God have mercy on HER soul, and yours.


I just saw Bowlegs on MSNBC Lockup. He claims Deja was an innocent victim in the path of the bullet meant for another man, outside He did say the detectives and D.A painted a story that he hated the transsexual kind, but never once said he solicited them for sexual favors many times before the murder of Deja. Ofcoarse he wouldnt admit anything like that, he didn't wanna be looked at like that. Deja sounded like a wonderful person. Before and after her life working on the streets. May she rest in peace.

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