Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A 25-year-old man wanted for questioning in the apparent stabbing and arson murder of a transgender woman in a Van Nuys apartment was in the Van Nuys jail Monday in lieu of $1 million bail after he turned himself in and was booked on suspicion of murder, authorities said.

Ezekiel Jamal Dear turned himself into the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Station about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, arriving accompanied by a local pastor, said police Sgt. Neil Wank. Dear was questioned by detectives, then booked at the Van Nuys Station about 9 p.m., said Police Services Representative S. Ball.

The stabbed body of a woman who called herself Yazmin and who formerly was a man named Michael Vash Payne was found in a burning Van Nuys apartment building Saturday.

LAPD homicide Detective Robert Bub told reporters at the scene that neighbors heard arguments and what sounded like fighting coming from the apartment.

Firefighters were dispatched at 5:06 a.m. Saturday to the 14600 block of Saticoy Street, made entry and quickly put out a small fire in the rear bedroom of the apartment. The 33-year-old victim was found lying on the floor of the kitchen, according to a police statement.

She had suffered multiple stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. Detectives were able to recover the murder weapon at the scene, the statement said

A vehicle possibly connected to the case was located Sunday in the area of 52nd and Figueroa streets in South Los Angeles and impounded, 77th Street Station Sgt. S. Vera said. Members of the area’s gay, lesbian and transgender community and other supporters held a vigil for Payne in Van Nuys Sunday night.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force is outraged by the ongoing murders of transgender women taking place all across the county,” said task force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper. “Three transgender women of color have been killed in the last four months in Los Angeles and there seems to be no end in sight to these tragic homicides.”

The task force offered thoughts and prayers to the victim’s friends and family and called on the LAPD “to swiftly investigate the murder of Michelle Vash Payne and bring justice to her loved ones and to the transgender community.”

Anyone with information about the case was urged to call investigators at (818) 374-0040.

—City News Service

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