Man found guilty in death of gender-fluid Iowa teenager

KEOKUK, Iowa (AP) — A man has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a gender-fluid Iowa teenager.

The Des Moines Register reports that a jury Friday found 23-year-old Jorge Sanders-Galvez guilty in the death of 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson.

Jenna Sandsone, a Burlington resident, remembers the night back in March, 2016 when Kedarie Johnson was found shot to death in the alley behind her house.

Sandsone went to almost every day of the trial got to see justice served when a jury found Sanders-Galvez guilty, "After listening to the evidence in the trial, it was pretty clear that there wasn't any other verdict," she said.

At trial, prosecutors described Johnson as a high school student who sometimes dressed as a girl. Relatives say Johnson identified as both male and female.

Prosecutors said Johnson was wearing a pink headband and hair extensions when Sanders-Galvez and his cousin saw the teen at a store, followed Johnson in their car, then took the teen to a Burlington home.

Investigators say a struggle ensued during a sexual encounter, and the men suffocated and shot Johnson and dumped the teen's body in an alley.

"All of his clothing had been pulled up except for his brassiere and one of the shots went directly through one of the cups of the brassiere," said Sandsone.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the unusual decision last month to send a federal hate crimes prosecutor to assist state and local authorities with the case.

"I think Iowa needs to take a second look at their hate crime laws because it seems to me that they aren't strict enough," said Andrea Horton, Burlington resident.

Both Horton and Sandsone hope that Kedarie's family can find peace.

"My hope and prayers is that for them, the other defendant in this case, will plead so that they don't have to go through another trial," said Sandsone.

A trial date hasn't been set for Jaron Purham, the second person charged in the case.

Sentencing for Sanders-Galvez is set for December, he faces mandatory life in prison.