An autopsy report released Thursday revealed that a transgender teenager from Theodore, Alabama died by blunt force trauma to the head.
The body of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, whose birth name is Michael Wilkins, was found in the woods at the suspect’s father’s house inLucedale, Mississippi.
George County investigators said Josh Vallum, 28, told his father that he murdered someone and dumped the body somewhere on his dad’s property.
Vallum’s father called authorities, and they searched the area, finding Williamson’s body hidden under some brush.
Chief Investigator Captain Ben Brown suspects that the two knew each other for several months before the murder.
“They did know each other. To what extent? We’re still trying to verify that because there’s been so many rumors about how they knew each other. We’re trying to nail it down so when we do present this case, it’s a solid good case.”
Several unanswered questions remain, including whether or not Vallum knew Williamson was transgender, and if that played a role in the crime. ‘
Williamson’s death is being investigated as a homicide, but Brown said they haven’t ruled out the possibility of a hate crime.
“That’ll be up to the District Attorney to press appropriate charges. But, we’re investigating this as a homicide like we do any other case,” Brown said.
Williamson is the ninth known transgender woman killed in the United States in 2015, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Thursday morning, Vallum was escorted by officers to the justice court in George County for a scheduled pre-trial hearing, but he signed a waiver that sends the case directly to a grand jury.
Vallum’s court-appointed attorney, David Futch, speculated his client waived the right to a hearing to avoid media attention.
“I think he’s worried, more than anything, about the story and his reputation and how horrible it looks to everybody.” said Futch.
Vallum is a documented member of the Latin Kings street gang and was in violation of parole for a different crime when he was arrested for Williamson’s murder.
Vallum has been in custody under a $1 million bond since June 2, a day after authorities found Williamson’s body.