Common Pleas Court Judge Diana L. Anhalt gave Charles Sargent some harsh but absolutely necessary words this week.
“Your crime was so egregious and horrible,” Anhalt told Sargent. “Diamond Williams was an important and valuable part of the world. And you wiped her away. I hope I don’t remember you but I will always remember her.”
Anhalt sentenced Sargent to life in prison for the murder of Williams, a local trans woman. In the past week, jurors heard grisly details that involved a brutal stabbing, dismembering of Williams’ corpse and a complete lack of respect toward trans people.
In July 2013, Sargent brought Williams to his Strawberry Mansion home. He then punctured her cranium with a screwdriver, dismembered her corpse with an axe and scattered her body parts in the Schuylkill River and a vacant lot.
Sargent contended that he acted in self-defense after Williams became violent during a sexual encounter. Jurors obviously did not buy this statement, as it only took them 28 minutes to deliberate.
We may never know Sargent’s exact thought process during that summer day in 2013, but the evidence is clear that he killed her and that he demonstrated disrespect to Williams’ gender identity. During the trial and even during the preliminary investigation, Sargent repeatedly misgendered the victim. He also previously stated that he refused to give Williams a prearranged payment of $40 for performing oral sex on him after he discovered she had male anatomy.
Luckily, Williams had allies even long after her brutal death. They included Anhalt, who requested that Sargent refer to Williams with female pronouns, as well as prosecutor Kristen J. Kemp. (“No, I’ve never chopped up a body and thrown a pelvis into a river,” she told Sargent after the defendant asked her if she ever did anything wrong.) Additionally, city Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes, trans advocate Elizabeth Coffey Williams and others attended the trial.
It may have taken five years for Williams’ killer to be brought to justice, but the amount of community support, a quick jury decision and an overall LGBT-friendly court show we have come a long way toward acceptance. And Williams’ loved ones can rest easy knowing her killer will be behind bars for the rest of his life.