Oct. death sheds light on misunderstood community

She liked cropped jackets and skinny jeans. Her favorite hair color was fire-engine red.

On the streets of lower Charles Village, the 24-year-old who dropped out of school at the age of 14 went by the name April Green, or "Miss Dee," or simply "Dee."

But on her death certificate, she is Darren Neal Green Jr. a man who had convincingly dressed as a woman since her early teens. And like some of city's transgendered, Green was drawn to an insular, alienated and misunderstood community where she joined others walking the streets exchanging sex for money.

In October, she was found dead, stabbed in the heart and left on Montpelier Street near Adams Park in the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood, her underwear pulled down below her knees, with defensive wounds on her hands and a bruise on her left arm that police said came from a human bite.

Police have charged 20-year-old Larry Douglas in her death and he is to stand trial at the end of April on a charge of first-degree murder. It's unclear from the police report whether the suspect had been a client or involved in some other dispute, but authorities said Green was attacked inside a car near the park and a playground surrounded by red-brick row houses a few blocks from Harford Road.

It's unclear whether Green was prostituting on the night of her death, but her family believes the attack was a hate crime, and they had feared the killer might strike again. But they also felt Green could deal with the dangers of the street trade. "Everyone worried because of the lifestyle she lived, but she had an attitude that she could handle any situation," said Green's aunt, Juaquita Green, 28.

Her death has cast a sliver of light on a community often affected by violence.

Cydne Kimbrough, a transgender advocate, said that many transgender individuals have experienced "some form of violence as result of the gender expression," saying it can began at home with a displeased family and can escalate once on the streets.

Kimbrough is the executive director of Glass Baltimore, Inc., which aims to guide those in the transgender community to find jobs and homes and overcome drug abuse and prostitution. She said she was counseling Green.

"Many of my clients have incidents daily and even with our support are reluctant to report them," Kimbrough said in an e-mail, citing verbal abuse by police or police officers who fail to use "appropriate language that would help us identify when crimes are being committed against transpeople."

Green was killed not too far from Charles Village's Old Goucher neighborhood, roughly between Calvert and Charles and 20th and 25th streets, a notorious hangout for transgendered prostitutes who are the source of residents' protest and irritation. Police Maj. Ross Buzzuro, the Northern District commander, said the area is of "top concern" for prostitution and that he often has the vice unit there.

But he said there have not been recent reports of violence targeting prostitutes.

While her family offered her money and a place to stay, Green preferred the risky lifestyle, her uncle, Damon Green, 42, said. He said he believed that Dee Green might have been prostituting the night of her death, calling her fate part of the dangers of living on the "dark side" of a fringe community.

Court records show that Green had several run-ins with police. She was arrested 11 times over a 24-day span between April and May 2004, including twice on the same day on two separate occasions, and charged with loitering or loitering for the purpose of prostitution. Three months before she was killed, Green had been sentenced to a seven-year term on drug-related charges, with all but four months suspended. Her aunt said she did not know Dee Green to use drugs.

Unknown to her family, Green was seeking the advice and guidance of Kimbrough in getting her name changed and a high school equivalency diploma.

Kimbrough said she did not know Green was prostituting, saying that many transgender individuals are unfairly targeted, but that she would not be surprised if Green had been. "A majority find themselves very young, thrown out… [it's] the only way they know how to survive," she said.

But unlike others, Green had a family who accepted her. She grew up with a brother and a sister in West Baltimore's Poplar Grove neighborhood. At Sunday gatherings, the family learned to call her "Dee" or "April" instead of Darren.

At the time of her death, Green was staying with her mother and helping to take care of her after two knee surgeries and other health issues, her aunt said. Dee Green stepped in, cleaning for her mom and cooking her meals. Her specialty was smothered pork chops.

Juaquita Green said that Dee Green's mom did not accept her new lifestyle at first, saying, "She definitely scared the life out of her mom, but she came around."

Dee Green began her transformation in her early teens. It started with a few articles of clothing, but soon her closet looked as though it belonged to a teenage girl. Even when Dee Green's mother bought her boys' clothes, she would alter them, Juaquita Green said.

Although her family said she faced antagonism at school for her new appearance, they said she managed to ignore it.

"I'm sure she was put down, but she didn't let it get to her," Damon Green said.

Both he and Green's aunt believe she may have dropped out of the Southside Academy in South Baltimore because of criticism by her classmates. After leaving school, she moved by herself into an apartment on St. Paul Street in Charles Village, paid for by a long-term boyfriend, and she quickly found friends and confidants in the transgendered community.

If she had felt alone or ostracized in life, she was embraced in death. Dee's funeral was large, with family and friends from the community in attendance, Juaquita Green said.

Last November, Dee Green was recognized at a vigil at City Hall commemorating International Transgender Day of Remembrance, according to an item on Baltimore Brew, a local news website. Green's was a violent death in a city with more than 230 murders a year, where slayings tend to pile up without much individual attention from the public.

Her family continues to mourn, but they're pleased a suspect is in custody, Juaquita Green said. When she first heard of the arrest, Juaquita Green said, she received numerous text messages with "they got him."

She said Dee Green "had so much life to her. It's just not an accepting world for transgendered people."


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