Prosecutors in Prince George’s County, Maryland, announced in a virtual press conference on Jan. 24 that the man charged with the July 17, 2021, murder of transgender woman Taya Ashton, 20, who was found shot to death in her Suitland, Maryland, apartment, was sentenced on Jan. 10 to 48 years in prison.
Assistant PG County State’s Attorney Sherrie Waldrup, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the sentence came after DeAllen Price, 29, pleaded guilty in October to Second-Degree Murder and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Crime of Violence. Price has been held since the time of his arrest, less than a week after the murder.
Waldrup and PG County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, the county’s lead prosecutor, provided details about the case that had not been publicly disclosed at the time of Price’s arrest two and a half years ago.
“What we know in this case is that the victim in this case and the defendant knew each other,” Braveboy said at the press conference. “They had an intimate relationship with one another. And an argument ensued during one of their meetings in July 2021,” Braveboy continued. “And from there, unfortunately, their argument led to this tragedy.”
Waldrup called the case highly complicated because up until the time of the sentencing, the motive for the murder remained unclear, even though many in the community believed it was based on Taya Ashton’s status as a transgender woman.
“We didn’t have any definitive evidence to show that until sentencing,” Waldrup said, adding that there were no witnesses to the incident and initial evidence was mostly circumstantial. “And when it came time for the sentencing, the defendant did offer that clarity, if you will, as to why this happened,” she told news conference attendees.
“He spoke at sentencing and told the court that he was engaged in an intimate relationship with Taya,” the prosecutor said. “And that evening was when he first learned that Taya was not born a female. And in response to that, he reacted and shot her.”
Added Waldrup, “That was just a chilling thing to hear. It’s horrifying, it’s unacceptable. It is certainly not an excuse or justification for what happened to Taya.”
In response to a question from the Washington Blade asking if defendant Price might have been attempting to invoke the so-called trans panic defense, which defense attorneys have used in murder cases where the victims were transgender or gay or lesbian, Waldrup said neither Price nor his attorney used that defense.
She noted that in Maryland, like in many other states and D.C., the “panic” defense is prohibited by law when attempted to be used based on a victim’s gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, and other factors.
“Taya was somebody who was loved by her family,” Waldrup said. “She loved her family immensely. Taya was somebody who, although being part of what some may consider a marginalized community, was not marginalized in how she interacted with Prince George’s County,” Waldrup concluded.
“So, today, what we want to send is the message that regardless of how someone wants to live or chooses to live, because this is a free country,” Braveboy told the press conference.
“People can live how they want to live and that does not give an individual the right to commit violence against them or to take their life, period. End of story,” she said. “And when they choose violence, we will hold them accountable. And today, and now, Mr. Price has been held accountable.”
Braveboy said she and her team of prosecutors have and continue to be committed to aggressively prosecuting crimes targeting members of the LGBTQ community. She noted that her office created an LGBTQIA+ Task Force to provide support on matters impacting that community.
Others who spoke at the press conference included PG County Council member Krystal Oriadha, PG County Deputy Police Chief Zachary O’Lare, and Renee Lau, an official with Baltimore Safe Haven, a transgender and LGBTQ services organization.
Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.