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14-Year-Old Trans Girl Killed in Sharon, PA

Memorial vigil to be held Saturday, July 13.

Pauly Likens.

Updated 10:26 AM July 6, 2024. A previous version of this story misstated the date and time of the memorial vigil.

In a heart-wrenching and tragic incident, prosecutors are committed to seeking justice for Pauly Likens, a 14-year-old trans girl from Sharon, PA, who was brutally murdered last month. Her remains were found scattered around a park lake an hour north of Pittsburgh.

Mercer County District Attorney Peter C. Acker expressed his determination to bring justice for Pauly and her family. “The bottom line is that we have a 14-year-old, brutally murdered and dismembered,” Acker stated in an email. “Pauly Likens deserves justice, her family deserves justice, and we seek to deliver that justice.”

The tragic events unfolded on June 23, when DaShawn Watkins allegedly encountered Pauly near Budd Street Public Park and Canoe Launch in Sharon, PA. Authorities allege that Watkins killed Pauly and then dismembered her body, scattering her remains in and around Shenango River Lake in Clark Borough.

Watkins was apprehended on July 2 and has been charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence. He is currently being held without bail in Mercer County jail. The coroner’s office reported that Pauly’s cause of death was sharp force trauma to the head and ruled it a homicide.

Investigators have linked Watkins to the crime through cell phone records, social media, and surveillance footage. Additionally, traces of Pauly’s blood were discovered in and around Watkins’ apartment in Sharon, PA.

In honor of Pauly’s memory, a candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday, July 13. Hosted by the LGBTQIA+ Alliance Shenango Valley, the vigil will take place at 7 p.m. at 87 Stambaugh Ave. in Sharon, PA. Pamela Ladner, president of the Alliance, shared her condolences and memories of Pauly. “Pauly’s aunt described her as a sweet soul, inside and out,” Ladner wrote in an email. “She was a selfless child who loved nature and aspired to be a park ranger like her aunt.”

District Attorney Acker emphasized the severity of the crime, calling it one of the worst he has seen in his 46-year career. However, he noted that it is not being classified as a hate crime. “PSP [Pennsylvania State Police] does not believe it is a hate crime because the defendant admitted to being homosexual and the victim was reportedly a trans girl,” Acker explained.

Acker commended the efforts of various criminal justice agencies involved in the case, including the Pennsylvania State Police, Hermitage Police Department, Sharon Police Department, park rangers from the Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County Coroner John Libonati, and cadaver dog search units. “The amount of hours dedicated to identifying the victim and filing charges against the defendant is immense,” Acker noted. “We take the murder of any individual very seriously, especially when they are young and brutally killed and dismembered.”

This is an ongoing story, and we will provide updates as they become available.

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