Orlando man looks to raise reward money to find local trans woman’s murderer

By : Jeremy Williams and Melanie Ararat
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ORLANDO | Sasha Garden, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was found dead in the parking lot of a Holden Ave. apartment complex in Orlando July 19.

At that time, Garden became the fourth trans woman murdered in the state of Florida and the 16th trans person taken by violence in the U.S. Those numbers have now climbed to a known five in Florida and a known 22 in the U.S., and in many of these cases local authorities have not turned up any suspects or made any arrests.

Openly gay Orlando resident Steve Roberts is looking to change that in the Garden case. He hopes to do so by raising a reward of $5,000 to match the $5,000 already being offered by Crimeline of Central Florida, a group that provides an anonymous tip line to citizens with cash rewards to tipsters whose tips solve felony crimes.

“When the number hit five in the state, five transgender people murdered in Florida, I was like something needs to be done about this,” Roberts says. “I’ve heard of other people raising money and adding to rewards that were being offered. I’m not sure how the process worked with those cases but I decided I’m not going to wait around to see before I raise the money.”

Roberts reached out to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Crimeline of Central Florida for more information on the Garden case, and the status of any leads or tips received, but has not heard back from either of them as of yet.

“It felt like nothing was really being done about this so I thought it’s time to shake the tree,” he says.

Roberts says he spoke with his friend, and Watermark founder, Tom Dyer about his desire toadd to the reward already being offered.

“He suggested I do something community wide to raise the money and at least double the current $5,000 reward,” Roberts says.

Roberts started a GoFundMe page on Nov. 18 to raise the added reward to capture Garden’s killer. It was the same week as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance — a day, held annually every Nov. 20, to commemorate and reflect upon transgender individuals who have passed away due to transgender-related violence.

“What it comes down to is there is a murderer, walking around somewhere out there, who got away with it and that should never be the case,” he says.

Roberts, who did not know Garden personally, started the GoFundMe off with $1,000 of his own money, with an end result of being able to offer a $10,000 total reward to anyone who can help lead police to the killer.

“I think that is enough of a reward that that if somebody knows something they will say something,” Roberts says.

The GoFundMe page states that all donations raised will go to that goal. The page advises that a sponsor stepped forward to pay the processing fees for all donations up to $10,000, saving about $300 that would otherwise have to come out of the reward donations.

Roberts’ hope is that community involvement doesn’t end with just Central Florida and with this GoFundMe page.

“Amounts over $5,000 raised will be used to match similar rewards in Central Florida first, then other parts of Florida,” the page reads. “Ultimately, we want to create a system that can be expanded to or copied in other jurisdictions to double the rewards offered for every transgender murder victim in the country. This is our first step. We think that goal is very doable with the participation of donors like you. The money you donate will go directly to that cause. If this effort is successful, we will form a nonprofit to continue fundraising efforts here in Florida and across the nation, as long as needed.”

Those who want to donate can do so by going to GoFundMe.com/HelpFindMurdererofFloridaTransgenderWoman. Those with information on the murder of Sasha Garden can contact Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story indicated that Steve Roberts reached out to the Orlando Police Department for more information on the case, but he actually contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information and we apologize for the error. 

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