'It was my life or hers,' says defendant in murder of trans woman

'It was my life or hers,' says defendant in murder of trans woman

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The fatal February stabbing of transgender woman Maya Young in Frankford stemmed from an argument over a man, according to the summary of a statement that defendant Jose Pena gave to investigators.


Pena’s codefendant, Tiffany Floyd, told investigators that she felt Young had used “voodoo” to “cast a spell” on her boyfriend, according to her lawyers. 

Both Pena, 19, and Floyd, 25, will face trial on charges of murder, conspiracy and related offenses. Judge Teresa Carr Deni held them for court after an hour-long preliminary hearing June 7.

Philadelphia Homicide Det. James Pitts was the only witness. He read summaries of both defendants’ statements into the record. Investigators have about 24 hours of footage with Pena and about three hours with Floyd, said Assistant District Attorney Chelsea Lightsey. Lawyers for both defendants have not seen all the footage. They will be able to review it during discovery before the trial gets underway.

Pena and Floyd appeared in court separately to hear evidence against them. Both stared at the table and didn’t speak during the hearings. They were denied bail and remain in custody until their next court date June 28. Pena is in Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, while Floyd is in Riverside Correctional Facility.

Lightsey presented a report by Dr. Daniel Brown, Philadelphia associate medical examiner, which ruled Young’s cause of death as stab wounds and the manner of death as homicide. Brown’s report said there were two stab wounds: one to the front chest, injuring the right lung; and one to the left upper back, puncturing the thoracic cavity, which protects the heart and other organs. The wounds were up to 5-inches deep. 

According to the summary of Pena’s statement, Floyd told him of an ongoing fight with Young over a man. She asked Pena to help her kill Young. On Feb. 20, Floyd and Pena met up with Young. They purchased two dime bags of crack and, Pena said, Floyd and Young smoked at a park in Frankford while he did not.

Pena stated that Floyd used a knife to stab Young at the park. When Young fled, Pena said Floyd told him he had to “finish” Young or Floyd would have him killed. 

“It was my life or hers,” Pena said in the statement. 

Pena caught up with Young near Penn Street and stabbed her in the back.

Pena’s attorney, David Michael Walker, argued that Pena acted out of fear for his life. Walker said Pena’s murder charge should be downgraded to third degree instead of first. Carr Deni upheld the first-degree charge for trial.

According to the summary of Floyd’s statement, she did not plan to kill Young. She said in a portion of the interrogation video that Young “used to follow me around all the time.”

The two had ongoing issues, Floyd said. In the summary of her statement, she added that she, Young and Pena did meet at a park near Arrott Street on Feb. 20. She said they were all smoking crack when she decided to stab Young. 

Floyd’s statement summary said she knew that Pena had a “butcher-type knife” with him and that’s what she used to stab Young. When Young fled, Floyd contends Pena followed Young on his own. She said Pena told her he stabbed Young twice in the neck, a detail which is inconsistent with the report from the medical examiner’s office. 

In the summary of her statement, Floyd said she remembered Pena telling her, “There’s no way [Young] survived.” 

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