A Black transgender woman from Chicago was found dead in Brooklyn on the morning of September 7, but the circumstances surrounding her death remain in question and a woman who identified herself as the victim’s sister suspects she could have been killed.
Police responded to a call at 8:30 a.m. on that Monday morning regarding an unconscious individual at 9720 Kings Highway in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, and when they arrived they found the victim unconscious and unresponsive in the “rear” of the adjacent building at 277 Rockaway Parkway. EMS workers pronounced her dead when they arrived, and Gay City News’ sister publication amNewYork Metro reported that police found the victim partly unclothed and wrapped in a plastic tarp.
Police later identified her as 21-year-old Gianna Lofton of Chicago, but Stantasia Jones, who said she is the victim’s sister, said her sibling was known as Isabella Mia Lofton.
Jones told Gay City News in a phone interview that New York police detectives informed her that an autopsy on her sister revealed that she was intoxicated and accidentally fell to her death from a rooftop to a lower roof landing attached to the same building. Jones said the autopsy revealed her sister had cocaine in her system.
But Jones, who explained that a detective shared photos of her late sister’s body in an effort to identify her, isn’t convinced that her sister’s death was accidental.
“I don’t believe it,” Jones said. “I think there was some foul play and our plan is to get her another autopsy.”
Jones said the photos she viewed showed her sister’s body from the chest up. Jones pointed to what she felt were inconsistencies in the photos she saw of her late sister’s body, saying that “there was nothing wrong with her hair,” despite falling from a rooftop several stories high, and she wondered why she did not notice any visible signs of bleeding.
She also found it difficult to believe her sister would have been able to reach the rooftop if she was as inebriated as friends who had been with Lofton described.
She asked, “If you’re stumbling drunk, how could you make it to the fifth or sixth floor?”
Jones is worried her sister could have been raped, killed, and wrapped in plastic, though she did not present any direct information that leads her to believe that.
Jones recalled what she heard about the time leading up to her sister’s death. It is her understanding that Lofton, who was visiting New York from Chicago, was spending an evening with two friends — both transgender, as well — named Dominique and Kiara. The trio were together at Dominique’s residence, Jones said, though Dominique was inside their apartment while Kiara and Lofton were drinking liquor and walking into other areas of the building, such as the lobby and hallways.
Lofton and Kiara were drinking Hennessy cognac, Jones said, and Lofton’s final social media posts on Facebook came shortly after midnight on September 7 when she wrote “Hennessy no chaser” and “Taking shots out the bottle” in back-to-back posts.
Eventually, the pair became too inebriated and Lofton was struggling to make her way up a staircase, Jones said. That was when Kiara briefly left to seek help from Dominique, but when they returned, Lofton was gone.
Jones said detectives told her mother that there is video evidence of the time leading up to Lofton’s death, though the family has not viewed the video.
“They’re saying she was left in the lobby alone,” Jones said.
There are very few additional details surrounding the subsequent events leading to Lofton’s death. When asked whether the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime, an NYPD spokesperson would only tell Gay City News, via email, that “the investigation remains ongoing by the 67 Precinct.”
A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, asked to confirm what Jones said her family was told about the autopsy results, would only say that “determination is pending” in the case.
In the meantime, Jones said she and another sister, Breanna O’Neal, have been raising money for a memorial service, as well as the necessary funds to transport her sister’s body back to Chicago. The family hopes to bring Lofton’s body back to Chicago within the coming days.
Jones remembers her late sister as someone who was kind to others despite enduring adversity throughout her life.
“She was a very nice person, a sweet person,” Jones said.
This story first appeared on Gay City News.