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Defendant burned his clothes after SC transgender woman was killed, witnesses say

When visiting Allendale in the summer of 2019, Daqua Ritter fell in with a small group of friends. Ritter, then 22 years old, wasn’t from “The ‘Dale.” He was born and grew up in Brooklyn, but every year he took a Greyhound Bus from New York to South Carolina and spent months in a small brick house that his grandmother owned near downtown.

After making friends with Xavier Pinckney, Ritter was introduced to Kordell Jenkins and Artaveis Youmans. They bonded over smoking weed and whiling away time in the humid, mosquito-infested summer months in the small, rural town 75 miles south of Columbia.

But the three men are quick to say, that didn’t really make them friends with Ritter.

Taking the stand in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina, the three men testified that they heard the rumors swirling in the small community about Ritter being in a relationship with a 24-year-old transgender woman, named Dime Doe, who was well known in town and attended Allendale-Fairfax High School.

And on the day Doe was killed, they testified how Ritter made a mysterious call with Pinckney’s phone and left in a car before reappearing hours later, on foot, with a bag of clothes that witnesses say he burned in a fire.

“We don’t know him,” Jenkins testified.

The testimony of the three men has become central to the case against Ritter, who is charged with the bias-motivated murder in Doe’s death, as well as possession of a weapon during a violent crime and obstruction of justice. Ritter is accused of shooting Doe three times in her car on Aug. 4, 2019 —allegedly to hide a sexual relationship with her, prosecutors contend.

It is the first time gender-identity has been given as a motive at a federal murder trial in the United States, prosecutors say. Between 2017 and 2022, there were 222 homicides of transgender people in the United States, according to a study from Everytown for Gun Safety, non-profit that aims to reduce gun violence. This violence disproportionately affects Black trans women, who made up 67 percent of those victims killed by a gun.

The three men are among the 26 witnesses called by federal prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina.

Along with eye witness testimony over three days about Ritter’s actions before and after Doe’s death, federal prosecutors Brook Andrews, Ben Garner, Elle Klein and Andrew Mann have brought forth experts in DNA, ballistics, forensic pathology and cellular records in order to prove their case.

Ritter’s defense attorneys have argued that the question before the jury is not whether Ritter killed Doe because she was transgender, but whether he killed her at all. It’s a “whodunnit,” said defense attorney Lindsey Vann, in her opening statements.

Prosecutors, however, have attempted to lock Ritter’s movements the day of Aug. 4, 2019 into a damning timeline.

While on the stand, Jenkins and Pinckney testified that Pinckney lent Ritter his phone early on the afternoon of Aug. 4 after Jenkins refused to do so. Phone records show that Pinckney’s phone was used to message Doe to arrange a meeting. Shortly after, Ritter left in a car.

Pinckney was charged and pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about lending Ritter his phone and whether his phone could even make calls at the time. On the stand he said he lied because he used the phone to buy drugs. He is currently awaiting sentencing on the charge and agreed to testify as a condition of his plea.

Just after 3 p.m. on Aug. 4, Doe received a traffic ticket and police body-camera footage shows someone, who prosecutors say is Ritter, sitting in the passenger seat.

At 4:41 p.m., Pinckney testified that he called an unknown number — prosecutors say it was Doe’s — on his cellphone. The connection was full of static, but Pinckney said he heard Ritter’s voice in the background.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Doe was found dead in her white Chevy Impala. She’d been shot three times in the head with a .25 caliber gun, at least once at close range, according to pathologist Kelly Rose, who performed Doe’s autopsy.

Sarah Goodman, a former South Carolina Law Enforcement Division DNA analyst currently employed with the Greenville Department of Public Safety, testified that Ritter’s DNA was found on the interior and exterior door handles of Doe’s car.

Kiera Mallory, the girlfriend of Ritter’s uncle, testified that Ritter showed up at their house roughly a half-mile from where Doe was found, looking nervous and asking for a ride into town.

Shortly afterward, multiple witnesses testified that Ritter reappeared in the neighborhood where he lived with Pinckney, Youmans and Jenkins. While hanging out at the house belonging to Youmans’ grandmother, the four men lit a fire to keep mosquitoes away in the gathering dusk so they could hang out and play spades. Both Pinckney and Jenkins testified that they saw Ritter drop his clothes in the fire.

But defense attorneys Vann and Joshua Kendrick, drilled down into inconsistent times, dates and details in many of the witnesses’ stories. There is no agreement among witnesses what Ritter was wearing, how he was carrying the clothes he was alleged to have burned, or how he burned them.

Defense attorneys have also questioned the motivation of some of the witnesses, who they say initially misled investigators before testifying against Ritter.

“I lied until I told the truth,” Pinckney said on cross-examination. On the stand he said he “smoked too much weed to kup with with dates” and primarily lied to protect Youmans, who he was worried would have to tell law enforcement about Ritter burning his clothes.

In the days that followed Doe’s death, Ritter’s girlfriend Delasia Green testified that Ritter was evasive and wouldn’t look her in the eye when she asked if he had killed Doe. Jamie Priester, the mother of another one of Ritter’s friends, testified that Ritter confessed to her while they rode in a car together. And Jenkins testified that Ritter asked him to dispose of a gun.

Given that they weren’t really friends, why would Ritter approach you to dispose of a gun, Kendrick asked?

“Probably desperate,” Jenkins said.

Prosecutors say that they plan to call two more witnesses Friday and then the defense will put forward their case. Jury deliberations could begin as early as Friday afternoon, said Judge Sherri Lydon.