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Tragedy in Sharon: A Community Mourns the Loss of Transgender Teen Pauly Likens

In Sharon, PA, 14-year-old transgender girl Pauly Likens was brutally murdered and dismembered. Dashawn Dale Depree Watkins, 29, has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and other crimes. Despite evidence suggesting a targeted attack, hate crime charges were not filed. The Shenango Valley LGBTQIA+ Alliance is in charge of the community, which laments Pauly's passing and demands greater justice and protection for transgender people.

The tight-knit community of Sharon, Pennsylvania, is grappling with the tragic and horrifying death of Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old transgender girl whose life was brutally cut short. Dashawn Dale Depree Watkins, 29, also of Sharon, has been charged with murder in the first degree, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence in connection with her death. The charges stem from the dismemberment and subsequent discovery of Likens’ remains near Shenango River Lake on June 23.

Pauly Likens was reported missing by her father on June 25 after she failed to return from a friend’s house the previous evening. Her last known contact was a Snapchat post at 2:30 a.m. on June 23, showing a dark road and stating she was out for a late-night walk to clear her mind. Her phone was last active in the area of the Budd Street canoe launch, and surveillance footage later confirmed her presence in the area, where she appeared to be waiting for someone.

The Investigation

Dashawn Dale Depree Watkins was arrested on July 3. Surveillance footage showed Watkins carrying a large duffle bag from his apartment around the time of Pauly’s disappearance. The bag appeared empty when he left but looked heavy and awkward upon his return 20 to 25 minutes later. Further footage showed Watkins making several trips with multiple bags, including garbage bags, on June 24. Preliminary forensic tests found blood in various locations in his apartment, leading to the arrest.

According to the criminal complaint, Watkins claimed he arranged a meet-up with someone via the Grindr app but denied knowing Pauly personally. Despite his denial, the evidence, including a receipt for a saw with exchangeable blades purchased on June 23 and the discovery of blood in his apartment, strongly implicates him in Pauly’s murder.

Community Outrage and Support

The brutality of Pauly Likens’ murder has deeply shaken the Sharon community, particularly the LGBTQIA+ members. Pamela Ladner, director of the Shenango Valley LGBTQIA+ Alliance, has been in close contact with Pauly’s mother, Jennifer, who confirmed that Pauly identified as a transgender girl and wished for her identity to be respected in death. The use of male pronouns in early reports added to the family’s pain, and Jennifer expressed a strong desire for the correct representation of Pauly’s gender identity.

Ladner, along with other community leaders, is organizing a vigil to honor Pauly’s memory on July 13 at the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Center. “Pauly’s life was taken far too soon,” said Ladner. “This tragedy is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by transgender individuals. Our community is mourning, but we are also coming together to support each other and fight for justice.”

Legal and Ethical Concerns

Despite the overwhelming evidence and the brutal nature of the crime, Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker announced that Watkins would not face hate crime charges. According to Acker, the decision was based on Watkins’ admission of being homosexual and the fact that Pauly was transitioning. This decision has sparked outrage among transgender rights advocates, who argue that the crime’s horrific nature and the targeting of a vulnerable transgender teenager should warrant hate crime consideration.

“This is one of the worst homicide cases I’ve seen in my 46 years as a lawyer,” Acker stated. “We’ve had dismemberment cases before, but this is especially bad. I hope I never see another one of these.”

The Community’s Response

The Sharon City School District is providing counseling services to students affected by Pauly’s death. “The entire community is feeling the loss and mourning with the family,” said Ladner. “It’s tragic, and to be part of a targeted demographic makes it even more tragic.”

Local organizations have also stepped up to support Pauly’s family. A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $21,000, surpassing its initial goal of $15,000. Ladner encourages continued donations to assist the family during this difficult time.

Sharon City Councilman Taylor Galaska, an LGBTQIA+ community member, expressed his deep sorrow and called for greater acceptance and protection for all people. “A situation that may seem like something nightmares are made of has become a reality in our own community,” Galaska said. “Pauly’s life was taken far too soon. This senseless act of violence underscores the urgent need for greater acceptance, understanding, and protection of all people, no matter how different they may be from you.”

As the community mourns, the investigation into Pauly Likens’ murder continues. Authorities are still searching for some of her remains, with the hope of bringing complete closure to the case. “These investigations are never closed until there’s a conviction or an acquittal,” Acker said. “It’s a constantly evolving, always changing investigation, and as additional facts come out, we consider them.”

In the face of this tragedy, the Shenango Valley LGBTQIA+ Alliance and other local organizations are more determined than ever to advocate for the safety and rights of transgender individuals. The planned vigil will not only honor Pauly’s memory but also serve as a call to action for greater protection and understanding of transgender lives.

The Bottom Line

The murder of Pauly Likens has left an indelible mark on the Sharon community. As the investigation unfolds and the community comes together in mourning, there is a renewed commitment to fighting for justice and equality for all transgender individuals. The tragedy of Pauly’s death highlights the urgent need for societal change, increased acceptance, and the protection of vulnerable populations.

In memory of Pauly Likens, the community’s response serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of solidarity, compassion, and unwavering support for transgender rights.

Transvitae Staff
Transvitae Staff
Staff Members of Transvitae here to assist you on your journey, wherever it leads you.


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