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Did Detroit Area Cops Send Transgender Teen to her Death?

A 19-year-old was found dead and dismembered after being forced to work as an informant for Madison Heights police.
 
 
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Photo Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

 
 
 
 

DETROIT (CN) - A mother sued police in a Detroit suburb for the murder and dismemberment of her transgender teenage daughter, claiming they revealed her identity to the drug dealers she helped set up, and who killed her.

Shelly Hilliard, who had been born Henry Hilliard Jr., was murdered on Oct. 23, 2011, three days after she cooperated with police, according to the federal complaint filed by her mother, Lyniece Nelson, against the city of Madison Heights and Officers Chad Wolowiec and David Koehler.

Madison Heights, pop. 30,000, is a suburb of Detroit.     

Though media reports on Hilliard's death had identified her as "Shelley," the complaint spells the name without the second e.

"Plaintiff Lyniece Nelson was the mother of plaintiff's decedent, Henry Hilliard, a 19-year-old transgendered person who at all times herein was known as Shelly," the complaint states.

In October 2011, officers smelled marijuana at a Motel 6 in Madison Heights and found Hilliard, a male companion, Michael Slaughter, and a bag of marijuana in Room 236, Nelson says.

"Defendants Wolowiec and Koehler threatened to arrest Shelly Hilliard and subject her to jail and/or prison - a notoriously dangerous place for any transgendered individual - unless she assisted defendants by identifying the person who sold her and/or Slaughter the marijuana," the complaint states.

"Defendants then demanded that Ms. Hilliard call the marijuana dealer and order a delivery of marijuana to the motel room. To avoid arrest, Ms. Hilliard agreed to do this.

"Thus, working in conjunction with and under the direction of Wolowiec and Koehler, Shelly Hilliard called Qasim Raqib ('Red'), whom she identified to defendants as the marijuana dealer, and summoned him to the Motel 6.

"As Red arrived at the Motel 6 to meet with Shelly Hilliard, defendant Koehler, who was lying in wait for him, pulled Red's car over into a parking lot across from the motel. Red's associate and companion, Marquita Clark, was also in the car.

"Other than the fact that Red's car had been previously identified by Ms. Hilliard, acting as a police informant, there was no apparent reason for Red's car to be pulled over by the police."

The police found marijuana in Red's car and charged him and Clark with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, according to the complaint.

"At the police station, Defendants Wolowiec and/or Koehler spoke with Clark and at that time told her that she and Red had been arrested because defendants had 'used a lady' at the Motel 6 to 'set up' Red and 'that he was basically set up,'" the complaint states.

"Defendants knew at the time that they were disclosing the identity of plaintiff's decedent Shelly Hilliard - their 'confidential' informant - to a person or persons who were likely to cause her serious injury or death."

Red and Clark were released from the police station a few hours later, Nelson says in the complaint.

"In the early morning hours of October 23, 2011, three days after defendants Wolowiec and Koehler disclosed the information about Red's informant, Shelly, Red - acting on that information and in concert with an individual named James Matthews - cruelly and brutally murdered Shelly Hilliard," the complaint states.

"In an effort to cover up their crime, they then dismembered her body, scattered the parts around the City of Detroit, and burned her torso.

"Red and Matthews accomplished this horrific task by luring Ms. Hilliard to a house on the 900 block of Longfellow Street in Detroit, on the premise that one of the men wanted a date with her. A cab driver that Ms. Hilliard frequently used for transportation dropped her off at approximately 1:20 a.m. Ms. Hilliard was wearing a silver party dress for her date.

"Red and Matthews were waiting for Shelly Hilliard outside of the house on Longfellow Street. She immediately became concerned when she saw the men waiting and asked her cab driver to stay on a cellphone call with her. As he drove away, the cab driver heard Shelly Hilliard say, 'What are you doing?' and then scream 'No!' over the phone. Her phone fell out of her hand and went dead after a few muffled noises. By the time the cab driver turned around the corner to return to Shelly Hilliard's drop-off location, no one was in sight.

"The cab driver was the last known person to see Shelly Hilliard alive, other than her murderers.

"Red and Matthews forced Shelly Hilliard into a car and drove off. Red held a gun to Ms. Hilliard and, according to information and belief, beat her with the gun. At some point while they were in the car, one of the men may have choked Ms. Hilliard.

"According to information and belief, the two men took Shelly Hilliard to an abandoned house on Longwood Street in Detroit and tied her up. They continued to assault her.

"At some point during this brutal assault and due to the assault itself, Shelly Hilliard died.

"Matthews's hands were covered with scratch marks from Shelly Hilliard's attempt to prevent her homicide, so Red and Matthews decided to cut off Ms. Hilliard's hands in order to hide the DNA evidence under her fingernails. Red and Matthews cut off Ms. Hilliard's arms and legs with an axe and placed her limbs in trash bags. They rolled Ms. Hilliard's torso into a sheet and placed it in the trunk of their car.

"Red and Matthews then dumped Shelly Hilliard's torso in the area of Interstate 94 and Bewick Street in Detroit, Michigan. They doused her torso in gasoline, lit it on fire, and drove off.

"Later that day, on October 23, 2011, Red and Matthews scattered Shelly Hilliard's limbs in the area of 6 Mile Road and Dakota Avenue. Based upon information and belief, they also burned down the abandoned house on Longwood Street to hide the blood that had soaked into the structure.

"Shelly Hilliard remained missing until approximately November 9 or 10, 2011. Although police officers discovered Shelly Hilliard's burned torso later in the day on October 23, 2011, they were unable to identify her body for several weeks. They were ultimately able to do so only from on a cherry tattoo on a portion of her upper right arm that remained connected to her torso. Her limbs were not discovered until early March 2012.

"Both Red and Matthews were arrested, convicted, and sentenced for their involvement in Shelly Hilliard's murder."

Nelson seeks punitive damages for violation of due process and wrongful death. She is represented by William Goodman with Goodman & Hurwitz.