Muhlaysia Booker, left, and Suspect Kendrell Lyles,
Kendrell Lyles charged in Booker murder, is person of interest in others
DAVID TAFFET and TAMMYE NASH
Dallas Police on Wednesday, June 12, announced the arrest of Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 34, in connection with the murder of Muhlaysia Booker and two other people. Investigators said Lyles is also a “person of interest” in the murder of Chynal Lindsey and is also possibly connected with the 2017 death of Armani Dante Morgan whose death was ruled “unexplained.”
Investigations continue to look into those deaths and the deaths of at least two other black transgender women in Dallas — Shade Schuler, whose body was found in a field in July 2015, and Britney White, who was shot to death in October 2018.
Abounding Prosperity CEO Kirk Myers has been working with Dallas Police since Booker was first attacked in the parking lot of her apartment. He redoubled his efforts after Booker’s murder. Myers said he was pleased with the arrest of Lyles and praised DPD Chief U. Renee Hall for her commitment to find the murderer.
“Despite issues surrounding limited resources and the rapidly increasing crime rate in our city, the Dallas Police Department maintained focus on bringing justice to Ms. Booker’s family and committed countless hours to this investigation,” Myers said. “We encourage the Dallas Police Department to maintain this momentum in their continued efforts to determine whether Mr. Lyles is responsible for the additional murders of black transgender women in Dallas.”
Myers said the community is looking to District Attorney John Creuzot “to prepare a zealous and fair prosecution and secure a conviction.”
Lyles was picked up in Collin County on two traffic violations, a few days after Dallas police found Lindsey’s body in White Rock Lake. He was being held on under $1,000 bond on a Garland warrant for driving without a valid driver’s license and without insurance when witnesses came forward and identified him as the person who murdered Leticia Grant. Grant was shot to death on May 22 in a parking lot at 7815 McCallum Blvd. and died at a local hospital two days later.
On May 23, a man police have not publicly identified was found shot to death in a parking lot at 17509 Coit Road, within a block of where Grant was killed. Both locations are in the city of Dallas but in Collin County instead of Dallas County.
Lyles was already being held in the Collin County Jail when Dallas police put together information it received from the community with evidence from the Far North Dallas murders to link Lyles to Muhlaysia Booker’s murder.
During their investigation into the shootings on May 22 and May 23, detectives realized that Lyles drove the same type of car — a light-colored Lincoln LS — believed to have picked up Booker near the intersection of Spring and Lagow the night she was killed. That led investigators to begin analysis of data from Lyles’ cell phone, and that analysis indicates that Lyles frequented the Spring Avenue/Lagow Street area and that he was in that area at the time Booker was picked up the night she died.
The traffic violations were dismissed on Tuesday, June 11, based on time served, but Lyles remains in jail without bail on sheriff’s office holds from both Collin and Dallas counties.
Lyles has been charged so far with three counts of murder, including the May 18 murder of Muhlaysia Booker. He is also charged with the murder of a woman shot to death May 22 at 7815 McCallum Blvd., and with the murder of a man shot to death May 23 at 17509 Coit Road.
Police said that tips called in to detectives in connection with the May 22 murder in Far North Dallas, corroborated by information from a witness and information from cell phone records, led them to issue an arrest warrant for Lyles on June 5.
During a press conference on Wednesday, June 12, Assistant Chief Avery Moore indicated that Lyles is considered a person of interest in the murder of Chynal Lindsey, a black trans woman whose body was found in White Rock Lake on June 1, and possibly is connected to the death of Armani Dante Morgan, a black trans woman whose July 2017 death was initially thought to be a suicide, but was then ruled unexplained. Her family has insisted that it was murder.
Police continue to investigate the October 2018 shooting death of Brittany White, the July 2015 murder of Shade Schuler, both black trans women, and an April 2019 knife attack on another black trans woman, who has not been publicly identified.
Moore praised Dallas PD detectives for having done “an excellent job in investigating these cases,” commending them for “their diligence and coordination.”
He also thanks the community “because without the tips and witnesses coming forward, it is likely these cases would remain unsolved. It is through our partnerships with the community that we are all able to successfully combat crime.”
Officer Amber Roman, DPD’s LGBT liaison officer, noted in an email following the press conference that the two other murders Lyles has already been charged with “involve individuals that are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Krista De La Rosa, a black trans activist who organized the Sunday, June 9 #BlackTransLivesMatter march on Cedar Springs, said, “I know this is far from ‘mission accomplished,’ but if this is the guy, this is one less monster on the street!”
TransGriot publisher and activist Monica Roberts serves on the board of Black Trans Advocacy, a Dallas-based national group that advocates and empowers black trans men and women.
“Can’t think of a more wonderful thing to celebrate during this Pride season than the alleged killer of Muhlaysia Booker and two other trans women being behind bars,” Roberts said. “May the next step be that justice is served in this case.”
The Rev. Carmarion Anderson, executive director of Black Transwomen Inc., which is part of the Black Trans Advocacy coalition, was more cautious.
“In light of recent news coverage and with someone in custody, that brings some relief,” Anderson said. “But it doesn’t bring closure, because there’s a bigger picture.”
Anderson said the black trans community lacks resources and visibility and that the trans community overall “is still dehumanized.”
Gender identity is still not included in the Texas hate crime law, Anderson pointed out, stressing, “There’s still a lot of work to be done.
Myers agreed that if the suspect in custody is indeed the murderer, the community is safer. But he also had a warning:
“We implore our transgender sisters to maintain caution in their daily lives because hate and ignorance are still present.”