New details emerge in Sage Smith case, family claims misrepresentation in local coverage
The case of a missing transgender woman has developed some new details, but a local news story about the updates has family members upset.
Sage Smith, a Charlottesville transwoman of color, went missing about three years ago. While a search ensued shortly after her disappearance, there have been few developments in the case since.
But Charlottesville Police have released new details to the local NBC affiliate who published a story earlier this week. The new details include the reasoning for CPD dropping Mr. Erik McFadden from the “person of interest category” in Smith’s disappearance. Though McFadden has been missing since he was first sought in 2012, police now believe they have no reason to bring him in.
Investigators working the case have released a new timeline of events from the night Smith vanished. Detectives say Smith left home to meet Erik McFadden at the Amtrak Train Station about 5:40 p.m. on November 20, 2012.
- 5:17 p.m. - Smith sends text message to Erik McFadden, “When r u leaving”
- 5:20 p.m. - McFadden replies, “I already did. I’m at the Hampton Inn.”
- 5:17 to 5:40 p.m. - Smith and McFadden exchange various text messages.
- At approximately 5:40 PM Smith leaves his residence.
- 6:08 p.m. - McFadden sends text message to Smith, “Where u at?”
- 6:12 p.m. - McFadden sends text message to Smith, “I’m standing here where r u?”
- 6:18 to 6:37 p.m. - Smith talking on his phone with friend from Northern Virginia. Texts from McFadden come in during this time frame, but it is unknown if Smith read them.
- 6:27 p.m. - McFadden sends text message to Smith, “Bye u stood me up smh”
- 6:35 p.m. - Witness sees Smith walking on 4th Street NW. Smith stops and talks to witness at a bus stop in the 400 block of West Main Street. Smith tells witness he is going to meet someone at the Amtrak Station.
- 6:40 p.m. – Smith walks westbound on West Main Street.
- 7:00 p.m. - Unconfirmed account puts Smith alone at Wild Wing Café, which is next to the train state.
The story goes on to quote CPD Chief Tim Longo about Smith’s case, using his brith name Dashad and male pronouns:
“Someone somewhere at some point in time saw Dashad that afternoon. Maybe they saw him walking up the street alone. Maybe they saw him walking with someone else. Maybe they saw him get into a car, or go into a building. That’s the person we need to hear from.”
A note posted on the Charlottesville LGBTQ and Allies Facebook group expresses concerns over NBC29′s and Chief Longo’s use of Sage’s birth name.
“HER NAME IS SAGE SMITH,” reads the note written by Lolita Smith and Dean Phace Smith, family members of Sage. ”The constant and insistent deadnaming and misgendering of Sage will not be tolerated. These anti-trans practices by both the local media and the local police department are at the heart of the racism and transphobia which result in alarming rates of both suicides amongst transgender youth and murders of trans women of color.”
The note also questions the release of this information ahead of a rally event to honor Sage scheduled for this week, with the family members saying they are “appalled” that police are taking action now, three years “too late.”
“Would that the police department had pursued community support for Sage’s search and reward fund as vigorously as our FOIA request revealed they had for cis, white Hannah Graham.” – check out the full text of the note below.
Smith’s mother, Latasha Grooms, does use male pronouns when referring to her missing son.
Anyone with information on Sage’s disappearance is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 434-977-4000.
A $20,000 reward is currently being offered in the case.
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