JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The United States Navy sailor accused of stabbing a Hattiesburg woman to death has made an initial appearance before Judge T. Larry Wilson.
Twenty-year-old Dwanya Hickerson, who is accused of murdering Dee Whigham, was denied bond Wednesday afternoon. Hickerson is charged with capital murder after allegedly robbing Whigham after stabbing her death.
Whigham's body was found on July 23 at a Best Western hotel, just north of I-10.
As law enforcement pieces together what exactly happened that night, Sheriff Mike Ezell says they are working to determine if there was a relationship between Whigham and Hickerson.
Because the Hattiesburg registered nurse was transgender, investigators are looking into the possibility of also charging Hickerson with a hate crime.
"Right now we don't know, we only have basic information," said Ezell, who hopes the crime lab can provide answers. "Getting everything to the lab - processing evidence, continue to follow out leads, take phone calls, tips, those kinds of things. So, we still got a lot of work to do."
Two Naval officers were in the courtroom during Hickerson's appearance, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service will be assisting the Jackson County Sheriff's Department with the case.
"Right now we're following up on the leads, working with the government and the folks at Keesler," Ezell added. "It's a team effort."
The victim was on the Gulf Coast with friends and coworkers to attend the 7th Annual Gulf Coast Black Rodeo at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
Originally from Monroe, La., Hickerson enlisted in the Navy in September 2015 in Georgia, and has been stationed at Keesler Air Force Base since April. According to a spokesperson, the sailor has no known criminal history.
Hickerson's preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 12.