Man arrested in killing of transgender woman in Prince George’s Co.

A Baltimore, Maryland, man has been arrested in connection to the fatal shooting of a young transgender woman in Prince George’s County last month.

Gerardo Thomas, 33, has been charged with first-degree murder in the June killing of 23-year-old Zoe Spears, Prince George’s County police said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. Thomas is being held without bond.

Spears was found shot to death the night of June 13, on 59th Avenue in Fairmount Heights.

On Wednesday, Thomas, an HVAC technician, was arrested in Cecil County on a job site, said Maj. Brian Reilly, commander of the Criminal Investigation Division. Police don’t have a motive yet; at no time during questioning did Thomas mention Spears’ being a transgender woman, Reilly said.

Reilly added that, as of now, there is no connection between Spears’ death and the killing of 27-year-old Ashanti Carmon, a transgender woman who was killed about a half-mile away on Jost Street in March. The two women knew each other, and police had spoken to Spears about Carmon’s death, but Reilly wouldn’t say whether Spears was or was not a witness.

On what would have been Zoe Spears' 24th birthday on Tuesday, friends gathered at the Latin American Youth Center to remember the transgender woman who was murdered last week. (WTOP/Kristi King)
On what would have been Zoe Spears’ 24th birthday last month, friends gathered at the Latin American Youth Center to remember her. (WTOP/Kristi King)

One video

Reilly said the arrest was the result of five weeks of “tireless, tedious hard work.”

Police didn’t have a lot to go on at first, he said: Security video from a church across the street depicted a Dodge Caravan from the driver’s side; Spears was standing outside the van on the passenger’s side, hidden from view.

Detectives reached out to motor vehicle administrations in the District, Maryland and Virginia, as well as area Dodge dealerships. From that, they were able to narrow their search down to a Caravan of a distinctive silver color.

There are about 3,000 such vehicles in the DMV, Reilly said; when they asked for every license plate reader hit on such a Caravan, they got about 34,000, he added.

“We needed to put eyes on every single one,” he said.

After getting some help from other police departments, the FBI and area administrations, detectives were able to find a van of the right color that was a half-mile away from the area of the shooting a couple of hours beforehand. They found it had been rented from an Enterprise franchise in Baltimore, and got Thomas’ name from that.

During questioning, Thomas was “very vague about his involvement,” Reilly said, but admitted “to being in the area, and armed, and in that vehicle at the time of the murder.”

‘No piece of evidence is too small’

Prince George’s County police spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said that the length of time it took to make an arrest in the case was strictly due to the small amount of evidence officers had to go on and the danger of tipping off a suspect.

“There was some concern … that we weren’t looking at this case, or aggressively working this case, because Zoe Spears was a transgender commercial sex worker. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Donelan said. “We are committed to the dignity of human life in Prince George’s County.”

Police are still working on Carmon’s death, and are asking the public for information on that.

Police are also looking for information about the death of Ronnie Jacobs, who was killed May 22 on Rhode Island Avenue. Reilly described him as “a homeless guy who nobody had anything bad to say about.”

Anyone with any more information is asked to call 866-411-TIPS. Donelan said the arrest in the Spears case was proof that “no piece of evidence is too small.”

Referring to the Prince George’s County detectives, she said, “These guys behind me will take anything and everything they can get.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

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