A 26-year-old Black transgender woman from Pompano Beach was gunned down and killed late morning Saturday, Oct. 2, inside her Hummer on a residential Miami Gardens street.
Royal Poetical Starz is believed to be one of at least 40 trans, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming people reported slain this year in the United States, according to queer blogger Sue Kerr, who tracks these killings for her website, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents.
Kerr and South Florida trans activists, including Morgan and Ashley Mayfaire of TransSOCIAL, were stunned to learn from a reporter on Tuesday that a trans woman had been shot to death the week before in Northwest Miami-Dade County.
A prime reason they didn’t know: Miami Gardens police on Oct. 4 issued a news release stating that a 26-year-old “Black male” had been slain — alongside a photo of Poetical presenting herself as a woman.
Investigators haven’t said much about Poetical’s death, except it “occurred at the 4600 Block of NW 185th Street, in Miami Gardens” about 11:26 a.m., according to the police news release.
Miami Gardens homicide detective Michael Lissade on Tuesday said the department would eventually disclose more details, but “we’re not releasing any information right now.”
He did say, however, that Poetical died carrying a U.S. passport — which identified her as Brandon Yoder — and that “she had female clothing on.”
Poetical’s good friend, Aventura family law attorney Sandy T. Fox, is furious that police misgendered her.
“Let me tell you the most disgusting part of all — I changed her name legally. I changed HER name because she’s trans to Royal Poetical Starz, which is what Facebook and Instagram says. That’s also what she’s recognized as at the medical examiner’s office. But it appears they aren’t even recognizing her as trans.”
Fox met Poetical on a 2018 New Year’s Eve cruise he took with his parents and then-boyfriend, Miami CPA Uvaldo Mencia. “All people should be treated equally. And I question whether or not a police department who can’t even recognize the gender will prioritize this case.”
Fox and Mencia met Poetical at a Celebrity Edge blackjack table and the three immediately hit it off. At the time, Poetical had not yet transitioned and was living as a male in a same-sex marriage with a much older man, Bruce Yoder. He died of natural causes about age 81 in late 2019.
“She loved him and he required a lot of care,” Fox said of Poetical and Yoder.
In the nearly three years since their cruise, Poetical, Fox and Mencia remained good friends.
Uvaldo Mencia, Sandy T. Fox, and Royal Poetical Starz. Courtesy of Steve Rothaus.
“Poetical was a singer, originally known as Mr. Poetical,” Fox said. “Always the life of the party. Whenever we walked on Wilton Drive to the next bar, everyone loved how Poetical was dressed. They would always comment, ‘Girl, I love that hair.’ Or ‘Girl, I love those nails.’”
In July, Fox and Mencia celebrated with Poetical when she graduated with a business degree from Florida Career College vocational school.
“It was the happiest day of her life,” said Mencia, who photographed a beaming Poetical in her cap and gown.
Poetical struggled financially the past few years. When her husband died, their home was in foreclosure. She earned money by giving massages, according to Fox and Mencia.
“She lived a very extravagant life,” Mencia said. “She posted a lot of things on social media. She hinted the last several months — she was complaining about money. She said she needs to start saving money. No more eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out.”
Fox and Mencia have offered to pay for Poetical’s funeral, which is set for Friday in her birthplace, Omaha, Nebraska.
A GoFundMe has also been established. “Royal Poetical Starz [...] was brutally shot and killed on Saturday, October 2, 2021, in broad daylight in Miami Gardens, Florida. A heinous crime that has no place in a civilized society,” reads the GoFundMe.
Monday morning, Poetical’s sister, Jay Donald of Omaha, posted on Facebook:
“The hardest thing about this is that life still goes on and each day I gotta wait for him to call me FaceTime me knowing he never will it’s a habit that’s gonna be so hard living without!!! I loved u as Brandon I loved u as Star ⭐️ Im hurt 😞 your not here in the flesh but forever in my heart u will be….. Fly high Royal Poetical Starz.”
Fox said he has been in touch with Poetical’s family in Nebraska. They provided to him scant details of her murder.
“They didn’t really have much,” Fox said. “They told me she was shot in Miami Gardens in her car. A Hummer. Poetical had just gotten a white Hummer. Apparently, she was shot in the face, and then shot 20 times.
“It shows to me a very high level of premeditation and anger.”
Kerr, the Pittsburgh blogger who tracks these killings, said the way Poetical died in broad daylight is not uncommon.
“I have noticed that these are not all happening in the middle of the night, the dark of the night, that sort of noir perspective of how these things happen. It’s a little shocking how brazen and public some of these murders have taken place,” Kerr said.
“I wonder if that is due to the increasing harassing, and drama inflicted, on the trans community. It has become more acceptable to be transphobic, especially in regard to Black trans women. That’s terrifying.”
Sue Kerr. Photo via Facebook.
Kerr began reporting trans slayings in 2013, when a woman named Cemia Acoff died in Cleveland. Her slaying seems very much like what happened to Poetical.
“What struck me was that [Acoff] was also found in women’s clothing. She had a very brutal death. She had no ID on her that I recall,” Kerr said. “The media misgendered her, deadnamed her and printed her old mug shots. A friend of mine who is part of the trans community in Cleveland asked me if I could write a ‘decent’ post that would use the correct pronouns, her name, an actual photo that wasn’t her mug shot.
“One of the things I could do as a blogger was to create that content,” Kerr continued. “That began my journey with this epidemic of terror.”
Kerr said it’s essential police tell the public exactly how and why Poetical died, “to both acknowledge her truth and make sure we have facts about her death.”
“After [Poetical] died, a lot of shit happened because she’s a trans woman: She was misgendered. She was deadnamed. People are speculating about many aspects of her life, including her privacy and secrets. Her death was not publicized. It appears the larger LGBT community, the larger trans community doesn’t know because of the deadnaming.”
Kerr said the public must know “everything that led up to that moment” Poetical was shot and killed.
“Her life — and death — are shaped by her identity as a Black trans woman. That’s the lesson for us.”
For anyone who has any information, visit www.crimestoppers305.com and select "Submit a Tip" or visit www.facebook.com/crimestoppers305.
[Editor's Note: SFGN stands with the transgender community and understands the importance of referring to a trans person only by their preferred name. In the case of this story, we opted to reveal the name that Royal Poetical Starz was assigned at birth only to correct the details known about her case, and to possibly help with the identification of her murderer who is still at large.]
Journalist Steve Rothaus covered LGBTQ issues for 22 years at the Miami Herald. @SteveRothaus on Twitter.