After the murder of a transgender teen in Missouri, prosecutors said the three main suspects will not face hate crime charges.
Texas County authorities have charged Andrew Vrba, Isis Schauer, both 18, and Briana Calderas, 24, with the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Ally Lee Steinfeld after she was reported missing on Sept. 14.
Steinfeld, who was born as Joseph Matthew Steinfeld, was missing for a month before police found her badly burned remains in a bag that had been dumped in a chicken coop near the mobile home where the teen lived in with the suspects, reports said.
Calderas and Schauer allegedly said Vrba had repeatedly stabbed the victim’s genitals inside the residence’s living room, gouged her eyes out and later bragged about the killing, according to court records.
The teens allegedly burned and disposed of the body after the killing, reports said.
After the suspects' arrests, Calderas allegedly confessed to police she tried to help hide the body and told them where the murder weapon could be found, according to reports.
The details of Steinfeld’s murder have caused LGBTQ advocates to call for the suspects to face hate crime charges.
"There couldn't be a more vivid example of someone being targeted because of their gender identity than being stabbed in their genitals," Dru Levasseur, director of the Transgender Rights Project for Lambda Legal, told CNN. "I've heard complete outrage from trans people about how [authorities] could not prosecute this as a hate crime.”
Authorities said, however, that they do not believe the murders were motivated by the teen’s sexuality.
"I would say murder in the first-degree is all that matters. That is a hate crime in itself,” Prosecutor Parke Stevens Jr. told The Associated Press.
In Missouri, hate-crime charges cannot be added onto a first-degree murder charge.
Human Rights Campaign spokesman Chris Sgro said Steinfeld’s death marks the 21st transgender person to be killed in the U.S. this year.
"This violence, often motivated by hatred, must come to an end," Sgro told The AP. "We will continue to mourn Ally and fight back against transphobia and anti-trans violence."
All three teens are also charged with armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse. They are being held without bond.
It is not clear if they have attorneys.
A fourth suspect, 25-year-old James Grigsby, is charged with abandonment of a corpse and tampering with evidence for allegedly helping to hide the 17-year-old’s body.