Community mourns trans teen murdered, dismembered during Pride month

A Pennsylvania community is mourning transgender teen Pauly Likens, 14, whose dismembered body was found at the end of Pride month.

On June 25, the Sharon Police Department received a report that Likens had been missing since June 22, a news release from the Mercer County Coroner states.

That same day, the Hermitage Police Department was dispatched to a nearby lake, where they found dismembered human remains recovered in and around the water, officials stated. Likens' remains were recovered in the area surrounding Shenango River Lake over the following week, according to state police.

An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was ruled to be a sharp force trauma to the head, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

"Pauly would have been 15 years old this past Saturday, and instead of celebrating their birthday, mom's still trying to figure out how to plan a funeral," said Pamela Ladner, president of the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley. "We're very far from where we thought we were and where we need to go as far as advocacy and keeping our youth safe, especially the LGBTQ youth in particular."

Ladner, who is speaking on behalf of Pauly Likens’ family, told ABC News that Likens was a jokester who played pranks on her family and was a selfless and loving kid.

PHOTO: Pauly Likens was found murdered and dismembered at the end of Pride month. (LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)
PHOTO: Pauly Likens was found murdered and dismembered at the end of Pride month. (LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley)

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"It's really important to build that sense of community in their own backyard, so that maybe they can find safe connections right here in their own community," Ladner said. "And then we wouldn't be going through these types of situations, tragic situations"

Surveillance footage, social media records and cellular phone records found that Likens appeared "to be on the phone and waiting to meet someone near the canoe launch area," state police said.

A suspect, DaShawn Watkins, has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, evidence tampering and abuse of corpse after allegedly murdering and dismembering Likens.

PHOTO: PA State Trooper vehicle (Adobe Stock)
PHOTO: PA State Trooper vehicle (Adobe Stock)

Officials say footage also captured Watkins, 29, making several trips out of his apartment carrying multiple bags, and driving to his apartment in the vehicle seen near the crime scene.

Multiple locations in Watkins' apartment tested positive in a preliminary blood test, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.

Watkins' next preliminary hearing will be on July 17 and another is scheduled for July 25. His arraignment was on July 3 and he was denied bail. He has not yet entered a plea.

ABC News has reached out to Watkins' legal representation for comment.

Likens' death comes amid heightened anti-LGBTQ sentiment that has been cause for concern.

A candlelight vigil for the teen is being planned for July 13 by local LGBTQ activist groups.

"We must stay vigilant in protecting our trans kids and trans people," read a social media post by TransYOUniting. "Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old, was brutally murdered, her life cut short by violence and hatred. Her story is a stark reminder of the dangers our community faces daily."

Community mourns trans teen murdered, dismembered during Pride month originally appeared on