- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—A George County man accused in the murder of a transgender teen is due in George County Justice Court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing in the case.

Josh Vallum, 28, of Odom Road, is held on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, a transgender teen from Theodore, Ala., whose birth name is Michael Christopher Wilkins.

Vallum, a documented member of the Latin Kings street gang, has been in custody on a $1 million bond since June 2, a day after authorities found the teen’s body under some brush on Vallum’s father’s property on Odom Road. The Mississippi Department of Corrections has also placed a hold on Vallum for a parole violation for violating the conditions of his release on a previous conviction of false reporting of a crime.

Mercedes’ body was discovered after Vallum told his father he’d killed someone. Vallum’s dad called authorities to report what his son had told him.

Josh Vallum told authorities who the victim was, but her identity had to be confirmed through DNA analysis.

Mercedes was an aspiring cosmetologist who shared a $50-a-week camper with a roommate in Theodore, Ala.

When the killing occurred, the George County Sheriff’s Office did not identify the victim as transgender. The Sun Herald traveled to Alabama and confirmed the information.

Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Brown in heading up the investigation with assistance from agents with the FBI Safe Streets Task Force. The cause of death has not been released.

Mercedes is the ninth known transgender woman killed in the United States in 2015, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.


(c)2015 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)

Visit The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) at www.sunherald.com

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