• Orange County sheriff apologizes for how agency identified transgender woman found dead

    By: Kevin Williams , Ty Russell , Jason Kelly , Chip Skambis

    Updated:

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings issued an apology Saturday for how his officer initially identified a transgender woman who was found dead behind an apartment building near Orange Blossom Trail earlier this week.

    The statement reads as follows: 

    At 5:00 a.m. on July 18th deputies responded to the call of a severely injured individual at 1633 Holden Avenue and a brief time later, the victim was pronounced deceased. In an effort to expedite information to the public via the local media and identify the victim, some of the information disseminated in a press release may have offended members of the LGBTQ community.  
     
    In the early stages of this homicide investigation, the OCSO released details regarding the legal name of the victim as required by state statute, along with other details that might assist detectives in solving this heinous crime. At that time the Orange County Sheriff's Office did not know the individual was transgender and had only one goal in mind, finding and apprehending a suspect.
     
    Once OCSO detectives identified the victim  and public information officers were made aware by family and friends that the victim was transgender, they immediately transitioned to referring to the victim by the appropriate gender and recognized name, Sasha.  The Orange County Sheriff's Office did not intend to be insensitive in this effort and I along with agency members apologize for any misgivings our communications may have caused.  
     
    As Sheriff, I am proud to report that the Orange County Sheriff's Office continues to have a positive relationship and open dialogue with members of the LGBTQ community, and we will seek additional measures to further strengthen that bond in the days ahead.
     
    We are committed to finding the suspect in Sasha’s murder and ask that anyone having relevant information to come forward. 

    A transgender woman was found dead behind an apartment building near Orange Blossom Trail, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

    Deputies said the body of Sasha Garden, 27, was found outside the Reserve at Lake Buchanan apartment complex on Holden Avenue Thursday.

    Passersby saw Garden's body in a rear parking lot around 5 a.m. and called 911, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jane Watrel said.

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    People who saw the body told Channel 9 that Garden was naked.

    The Orange County Sheriff's Office originally said Thursday morning that the victim was a man dressed as a woman and was wearing a wig. Deputies said they found trauma on Garden's body.

    "When I walked in this morning, I was, like, here we go again," said the complex's maintenance manager, who asked to not be identified. "Nobody wants to see that. Nobody wants to see a dead body."

    Investigators said they don't believe Garden lived at the apartment complex.

    Deputies have not said where Garden is from or how she died.

    Mulan Montrese Williams, who was Garden's friend, told Channel 9 Thursday that the two first met two years ago.

    "I let her know about a trans empowerment group that I was having. That was our ... first real interaction," she said. "She was a firecracker. She was very outspoken. She didn't hold anything back."

    Williams said Garden was working as a prostitute in the area near where she was killed. Records show Garden was arrested for prostitution in 2016.

    Williams said Garden dreamed of becoming a hairdresser.

    "She used to do hair," she said. "She used to always talk about that. She let me know this wasn't her life -- working the streets."

    Williams said she hopes Garden's killer is arrested soon, but deputies said there are no suspects yet in the case.

    "It's very scary, especially when I'm living in the same neighborhood that it happened," she said. "Sasha was a good person. Sasha's life was ended too early."

    Williams said Garden's friends are considering holding a vigil for her in the coming days.

    Anyone with information is asked to call Crimeline at 800-423-8477.

    The homicide is the latest in a growing list of death investigations in Orange County in just a few days:

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