GenderTalk Archive


November, 1995
Tragedy has once more struck the transgender community in the Boston area, as yet another transexual has fallen victim to transphobia.

Chanelle (Roman) Pickett, 23, was strangled to death in Watertown, MA, a suburb of Boston, early on the morning of Monday, November 20. The murderer was William C. Palmer, 34, a manager of computer programming for Unisys in Somerville. Chanelle was found dead in Palmer's room (he shared a Watertown apartment with two others) at about 1 p.m. Monday, roughly 8 hours after she was choked to death. Palmer's attorney had called the police with the three roommates in his office.

Palmer is an admirer of pro-op transexuals who frequented the Playland, one of Boston's two TS pick-up bars. He drove Chanelle and her twin TS sister Gabrielle to their Chelsea apartment and stayed there about 90 minutes to drink and snort the cocaine he purchased near the Playland. He tried to talk the twins into a three-way tryst, but only Chanelle packed an overnight bag and went home with him. According to Gabrielle, Chanelle regarded Palmer as a potential relationship partner. Chanelle and Palmer spent five hours in his room, during which time an argument broke out, according to Palmer's roommates, who knocked on the door but were assured that things were OK. Obviously they weren't, as the conflict escalated to the point where Palmer strangled her to death.

Despite his admission of having strangled Chanelle, Palmer entered a plea of not guilty in Waltham District Court on Wednesday. His defense was that he did not know that she was "a he", and that the discovery led to the murder. The Boston Globe reported that "defense attorney Walter B. Prince branded as 'absurd' the allegations that Palmer had dated transsexuals and knew Pickett was a man, and said "We have it on pretty solid ground that any accusations of that nature are certainly false and out of character for a gentleman who has lived the normal upstanding life that he has. He has worked every day of his life since high school and has deep roots in the community." The Boston Herald reported that Prince said "There clearly was a horrendous fight that occurred, and my client received multiple bruises and bites from this assailant." Clearly, the defense rests on staunch homophobia.

The defense's assertions were refuted in the strongest possible terms by patrons of the Playland Cafe, including Gabrielle Pickett and one TV who said "He had approached me one time. He asked me if I had real breasts, and I said no because I'm not a pre-op. That's when he seemed to lose interest." Toyaer Shearrion, 30-year old TS, said "He knew what he was doing." Toyaer had dated Palmer four times. "He loves them," she said. Picket was "a beautiful person. She was always there for you if you needed something."

Continuing press coverage probed deeper and uncovered the other side of the story, headlining "Preppy wanted dates in drag, cops say" in the Boston Herald and "Victim's twin says gender was no secret" in The Globe. Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch has welcomed testimony from witnesses who knew both the victim and the alleged murderer, and rejects Palmer's account of the deception as his motive.

The Menace will be watching the case, and in particular the actions of the District Attorney's office in prosecuting this case. A vigil will be held on the opening day of the trial or the sentencing, whichever comes first.

Chanelle was a pre-op TS who had been fired by Nynex in February after defending herself against harassment by a co-worker because of her gender. She had resorted to turning tricks in order to save money for her surgery (although Palmer was not a trick). This case underscores the importance of gaining employment protection for transgenders; had she still a job at Nynex, she would no doubt be alive today.

News report courtesy GenderTalk