JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - One man is under arrest, accused of killing a transgender woman at a St. Martin hotel Saturday. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said Dwanya Hickerson, 20, was apprehended on Keesler Air Force Base on Monday morning.
Hickerson, of New Orleans, is charged with capital murder. He will make his initial court appearance before county Judge T. Larry Wilson on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
Ezell said Keesler personnel have been a big help in this ongoing investigation. He also said his department received several tips about the crime after surveillance photos from the scene were posted on social media sites.
Ezell said Hickerson is not an airman, but rather a member of the U.S. Navy assigned to Keesler AFB for training.
Hickerson is accused of killing and robbing 25-year-old Dee Whigham, of Shubuta, at the Best Western Hotel just north of I-10.
Investigators said it appears Whigham was stabbed to death, but an autopsy must be performed before an official cause of death is announced. That autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
A candlelight vigil in memory of Whigham is scheduled for Wednesday at Lighthouse Community Church on Water St. in Biloxi. The vigil will start at 7 p.m. and is scheduled to last an hour.
Ezell said Whigham was found dead Saturday night, and investigators are looking at this as a possible hate crime. The sheriff described the crime scene as "brutal."
"Right now we're looking at this, we're not ruling out anything at this point in time. So as soon as we gather more information and keep working on the case, then we'll make some determinations on whether this was a hate crime or not," Ezell said in an interview Sunday.
Whigham worked as a registered nurse at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Dee Whigham as they try to make sense of this terrible tragedy. She will be remembered at Forrest Health as an excellent nurse who was well-loved by her patients. I know Dee will be missed by her co-workers, supervisors, and the Forrest Health family," said Evan Dillard, President and CEO of Forrest Health.
Ezell said Whigham was in town with friends and coworkers over the weekend to attend the 7th Annual Gulf Coast Black Rodeo at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.