DETROIT- Her mother called her Treasure, but her killers treated her body like trash – chopping and burning it up before dumping it on the side of the road. The burnt torso of Michelle Moore, also known to friends as Shelly Revlon, 19, was discovered Oct. 23, the morning after she went missing, near 1-94 on the east side. But it was only last week, after stories appeared in the mainstream media, that authorities made the connection and Moore’s mother, Lyniece Nelson, was able to identify her daughter by the cherry tattoo that remained on her shoulder.
Moore was last seen at around 1 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd, when a cab driver she used frequently dropped her off at a house in Detroit where three men were waiting outside. Just minutes after, Moore called the driver again saying she felt uncomfortable and asking that he return. But the phone went dead mid-call and by the time he made it back to the house there was no sign of her.
“Whoever she went to see, she obviously trusted him for her to get out of the cab and there were three guys standing outside of the house,” said Moore’s friend Angel Williams Revlon. “She wasn’t the type of girl to get out of the car if she saw three guys she didn’t know.”
The official cause of Moore’s death is still pending, and may never be known if the rest of her body is not discovered. Officials at Equality Michigan have asked the FBI to investigate the murder as a possible hate crime.
“This tragic event must not go unnoticed,” said Nusrat Ventimiglia , EM’s director of victim services, in a statement. “Transgender women of color are often targets of hate violence in our region and throughout the country. National research shows that transgender women of color face the most severe violence, including murder, and are most likely to experience discrimination and intimidation.”
Moore’s violent end was not only horrific but also ironic, her friends say.
“She was a peaceful person,” recalled David Zanders, who knew Moore for about five years. “That’s why it’s shocking to me that she died like she did. She was not the type of girl who would be out in the streets doing crazy stuff. She never did wrong to nobody. Nobody around her could say anything bad about her.”
Friends said that Moore was quiet and always had a smile on her face. She enjoyed taking photos – of herself and others – and loved music, particularly Rihanna. She had recently traveled across country and visited cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
DeJuan LeBlanc remembered Moore as caring and compassionate.
“She always gave me advice when I needed it,” he said. “She was always there for me. She never just thought about herself.”
The same was felt by Tiara Jackson.
“She was always a good person to talk to about problems and stuff, even though she had a lot of her own,” Jackson said. “She was always a good listener to be so young.”
Even people in the community who didn’t know Moore are reeling from her death.
“I’ve been devastated, totally devastated,” said Michelle-Fox Phillips, executive director of Transgender Detroit and one of the organizers of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is scheduled for this Friday. “We will be mentioning Shelly at the service.”
A mother’s heart breaks
Hurting most, of course, is Moore’s mother.
“I called her Treasure because of what the word, itself, means,” Nelson said. “That’s what she was: my treasure. She was – and still is – my everything.”
Nelson said she knew her daughter was dead long before the authorities finally contacted her to make the I.D.
“I knew my baby was gone,” she said. “I felt it in my loins. I just didn’t want to believe it.”
The third oldest of nine children, Moore felt a responsibility to be there for her family and to look out for her mother.
“Anything we needed, anytime we needed her, she was there,” said Nelson. “I teach my children to be there for each other because we are all we have. I taught my children to love and cherish their loved ones no matter what. ”
Recalling when her daughter began identifying as female, Nelson said it was not an issue for her.
“It was never a problem when she transitioned. I said, ‘OK, whatever, when are you coming home?’ That’s all I needed to know. We didn’t need to sit down and discuss it and ask why. There was no why. That was my baby. I know that people are who they are from birth. She was my treasure.”
Now that her treasure is gone, Nelson said she’s determined to see that her killers are apprehended and brought to justice.
“They thought they had silenced her, but what they did was release a monster in her mother,” she said. “I’m going to make sure that whoever did this will pay and justice will be served. I’m going to make sure that no other LGB – and please don’t forget the T – person has to go through this again.”
To that end, Nelson is pledging to stay in constant contact with authorities and see that her daughter’s case does not fall by the wayside.
“I’ll be on them every day like a pimple, like a boil on their ass,” she said. “I’m about to scream as loud as I can from the top of the mountain. If I have to go to the White House and bang on the gates, the FBI can throw me on the ground. But people will hear about this.”
Helping her continue on her crusade, Nelson said, will be her daughter’s memory – and spirit.
“She will personify the term guardian angel,” she said. “And not only is she going to watch over her family, she is going to watch over her sisters and brothers in the community. She’s gonna make sure they’re taken care of also.
“You don’t turn your back on your children,” Nelson continued. “They’re all you have. They are an extension of you. Trans kids out there, if they need a mom, if they need a motherly hug, a nice warm meal, I’m going to be there for them. You can let them know that.”
For now, the community is trying to be there for Nelson. At a benefit at Club Innuendo Sunday more than $600 was raised.
“We wanted to rally around Shelly’s mom and show her that the community cares,” said John Trimble, one of the evening’s organizers. “This touched me in a very special place. So I just reached out to all of our contacts to see what we, as a community, could do. I just felt strongly that something needed to happen.”
While her pain is very personal, Nelson said everyone suffers when violence such as this occurs.
“For me to lose my child, it’s a tragedy for everybody.”