On the afternoon of September 9 Leticia Alvarado, cashier at a motel in the 13900 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park CA, discovered the body of her friend Melony Smith in her motel room.
Alvarado says that Smith had been staying in the motel on and off for three years.
We became very close. She called me sister. I was her sister.
Before I go to work, I always stop by her room and we have breakfast. That day she wouldn’t answer her phone.
So Alvarado went to the room and had the maid open the door and found Smith’s body lying on the floor.
She was all bruised up. She had blood on her head. She was lifeless. I could tell she was dead.
When the police came, the victim amazingly transformed into a 26-year-old Asian male. And because of the police and coroner’s reports, Melony Smith died time and again as she was continually misgendered. We learn that the victim was beaten to death, died from multiple injuries caused by blunt force trauma, and the death was deemed a homicide.
By inspecting the victim’s cell phone usage and surveillance footage near the motel room, police detectives identified Stephen Gonzales, 28, of West Covina as the suspect in the homicide. Gonzales was arrested on Wednesday, September 11, on suspicion of drug possession, in City of Industry. Prosecutors charged Gonzales with murder and robbery on Friday, September 13, in a felony complaint that included the sentence-enhancing charge of committing murder during the course of a robbery.
It wasn’t until the weekend that we learned that the victim was a transgender woman.
Smith’s friends said they had never seen Gonzales before.
We don’t really know why he did it or what’s the relationship with him.
–Misty Vale, friend of victim
The friends described Smith, who worked for a security company, as well-liked, mild-mannered, and shy around strangers.
Everybody liked her at the hotel. She was very helpful to everyone. She was funny and outgoing.
She was friendly to the people that she knew.
Vale said that Smith was saving up to purchase a car and was hoping to return to school to become a dental hygienist. Smith grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, but moved out of her parents’ home at the age of 16 because they couldn’t handle her being transgender.
She decided to leave the house, because her family wouldn’t understand. She moved in with her cousin.
Smith continued her education, however, graduating from Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park.
She was very proud of that.
Members of the transgender community have come together to raise money for the funeral and pay for services.
There was a viewing yesterday from 4:30-8:30 at SkyRose Chapel of Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier. There was a funeral today at 1pm, followed immediately by burial.