Fern Feather, a 29-year-old trans woman, was found murdered at a roadside in Morristown, Vermont, on Tuesday morning, adding yet another homicide victim to America’s tragic trans murder toll. Police have arrested and charged Seth Brunell, 43, with second-degree murder.
A spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ advocacy organisation The Pride Center of Vermont, said that the group were “heartbroken by the loss of one of our community members. Fern brought such joy to so many who were honoured to know them and we grieve the loss of their light in this world.”
Gov Phil Scott issued a statement condemning the “disturbing hostility towards the transgender community” across the US.
The govenor’s statement continues: “Exploiting fear and targeting divisive rhetoric at people who are just trying to be who they are is hateful and can lead to violence. To Vermonters in the LGBTQA+ community, I want you to know we stand with you and support you but know we have more work to do.”
The governor’s condemnation was echoed by Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, both candidates in this year’s House of Representatives elections. Balint, who is gay, commented, “As we look across the nation, LGBTQ kids and adults are under siege and it touches me personally.” Ram Hinsdale added, “We have lost a trans woman in Vermont, and I am holding our trans community in my heart.”
Following his arrest, Brunell attempted to invoke the so-called “gay panic” defence, a tactic which claims self-defence in the face of unwanted sexual advances from somebody of a different sexual orientation or gender identity. However, state police were unable to find any evidence of a struggle or assault and, in any event, the gay-panic defence is banned in Vermont.
An arraignment, when Brunell will be asked to enter a plea, is scheduled for later on Thursday.