LGBTQ

Miami Gardens Police Deadnamed Slain Trans Woman. It Cost Them Crucial Time.

Royal Poetical Starz, who was shot and killed on October 2, 2021.
Royal Poetical Starz, who was shot and killed on October 2, 2021. Photo courtesy of Uvaldo Mencia
On October 4, the Miami Gardens Police Department (MGPD) released her "name."

It had been two days since the body of Royal Poetical Starz was found in her Hummer, parked in a residential area near NW 185th Street in Miami Gardens. The 26-year-old woman had been shot and killed. Her death was ruled a homicide.

But when investigators identified Starz, who is transgender, in a press release meant to solicit information that could help piece together her last moments and bring her killer to justice, Miami Gardens police made a critical mistake that undoubtedly cost them crucial time in the early stages of their investigation.

Despite publishing a photo in which Starz presented as female, police identified Starz as a male and used her deadname, a term that denotes the name she was assigned at birth. LGBTQ+ advocates and loved ones who knew Starz tell New Times the misstep prevented them from learning about her death in a timely manner.


That news release appears to have been deleted from the department's website and social-media channels.

Miami Gardens police did not provide an incident report to New Times and declined an interview, citing an active and ongoing investigation.

According to data from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Starz is one of 41 trans or nonbinary people, most of whom are women of color, whose deaths were caused by violence so far this year in the U.S.

Nikole Parker, director of transgender equality for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Florida, tells New Times that the group didn't learn about Starz's death until two weeks after the fact, when media outlets called attention to the MGPD's mistake.


"We as a community are concerned, due to the Miami Gardens Police Department, their original press release misnaming and misgendering her, the community didn't find out about her death for two weeks," says Parker, who is transgender.

"When these murders happen," she adds, "it's up to [police] to reach out to the local LGBTQ community for assistance because many times the chosen family of these individuals are the ones that could help get as much detail as [police] need in these cases."

Sandy Fox, a close friend of Starz, tells New Times that law enforcement's misgendering and deadnaming was an insult.

"What people need to know is that this was somebody whose life was robbed from them, whose life was just getting started, and it's a shame," Fox says. "These types of crimes are not acceptable, and the more they say her name, the more likely we are to find justice."

Elsewhere, just a day before Starz was killed, the Broward County Sheriff's Office raised the monetary reward to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest for the murder of Bree Black, a transgender woman of color who was shot to death in July 2020.

Last year was the deadliest year on record as far as the killings of trans and nonbinary people, according to HRC, with 44 deaths.

"At this time, BSO homicide detectives said they are making significant progress in the investigation and do not believe that Bree Black’s murder was a random act," according to the release from the sheriff's office.

BSO detectives declined to comment to New Times via a spokesperson.

Fox, along with his then-boyfriend Uvaldo Mencia, say they met Starz met on a cruise in December of 2018. Fox, who is a family law attorney in Aventura, says he helped Starz legally change her name and gender marker when she publicly began her transition last year.

The three hit it off immediately and never missed the chance to celebrate each other's birthdays. That's all gone now. Gone are the outings to Longhorn Steakhouse, Starz's favorite restaurant. Gone are the nights out in Wilton Manors sipping Hennessy and cranberry, her favorite drink. No more group dinner at Starz's Pompano Beach home, where lasagna was usually on the menu.

When Mencia thinks of what he misses most about his friend, it's Starz's texts, always teeming with motivational hashtags and emojis that she'd send unprompted throughout the workday.

Earlier this year when Mencia caught a cold, she bought him a new mug to make tea and proceeded to check in on him every few hours.

"Anything for my bestie," he says Starz told him.

An online fundraising effort has been launched to cover funeral and memorial expenses. If you have information pertaining to the death of Royal Poetical Starz, call 305-471-8477, visit crimestoppers305.com and select "Submit a Tip" or submit a tip via facebook.com/crimestoppers305. A reward for up to $5,000 is available to anyone with information that leads to an arrest.
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