Activist Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, was found beaten and stabbed to death in her home in Massachusetts on Friday. Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, turned himself in to police and admitted to killing his wife during an argument.
Steele-Knudslien, 47, is being held without bail and pleaded not guilty to murder on Monday despite his confession, according to CBS News. Police said he hit his wife with a hammer and stabbed her with a knife. He reportedly told investigators he “snapped” during the argument and that she was “always belittling him.” Police had reportedly been called to the couple’s home multiple times in the past for “neighborhood” issues.
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien is the first known trans woman to be killed this year, according to LGBTQ organization GLAAD. She was a well-known advocate for transgender rights and helped launch the first New England Trans Pride event more than 10 years ago. She also helped start the Miss Trans New England Pageant.
Her longtime friend Justin Adkins spoke to CBS News.
“Her thing was always that transgender women are beautiful and need a venue for trans women to be seen as beautiful,” Adkins said.
The Human Rights Campaign and Trans People of Color Coalition reported that 2017 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people, especially trans women of color. More than 25 transgender people were killed last year, and trans women are more likely to die by hate violence than any other group in America.