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Black Trans Woman Found Dead in East Harlem

No cause of death yet for victim found in her supportive housing apartment

The East Harlem apartment building at 55 East 110th Street where Janette O’Sullivan’s body was found dead.
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A Black transgender woman was found dead in her East Harlem apartment on October 25 by police officers who said her body had been in the home for several days before anyone learned that she died.

Cops discovered 28-year-old Janette O’Sullivan’s body at her apartment at 55 East 110th Street after a person tried knocking on her door as part of a wellness check, according to the NYPD. Police said O’Sullivan had not been seen for over a week at the time she was found dead.

The NYPD said an investigation into O’Sullivan’s death is underway, but deferred questions about a cause of death to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The medical examiner had not yet determined a cause of death as of November 27, more than a month after her body was discovered.

A person who knew O’Sullivan told the Daily News, which first reported on her death, she entered her building with a man on the last day she was seen alive.

O’Sullivan’s apartment building is operated by Good Shepherd Services and is known as the McLaughlin East Harlem Residence, which provides affordable housing to young adults. The residence offers services such as counseling, peer groups, and life-skills training. Those who knew O’Sullivan cast blame on Good Shepherd Services for failing to check on her sooner, according to the Daily News. Good Shepherd Services did not respond to Gay City News’ request for information about O’Sullivan’s death.

According to the Daily News, O’Sullivan studied at Baruch College and was a writer who enjoyed journalism. She was a stand-up comedian who performed at venues like Gotham Comedy Club.

O’Sullivan’s death contributes to a rising death toll of transgender women of color nationwide during a year when at least 22 known trans women died as of November 21. Assuming she died in her apartment — that has not been confirmed — O’Sullivan would not be the only LGBTQ person in New York City to die a premature death in their own home this year.

Kawaski Trawick, a 32-year-old out gay Black man, was fatally shot by cops in April after he had called police to inform them that his apartment was on fire. After officers arrived and found Trawick holding a kitchen knife and a broomstick, cops said they tased him before he got up and charged officers with a knife, leading to the fatal shooting.

In a separate case, a person found dead and tied up with slash marks in a Bronx apartment on September 13 may have been transgender, according to neighbors who spoke with Spanish-language news outlet Telemundo. Multiple attempts by Gay City News to seek clarification from the NYPD on the victim’s identity in that case have been unsuccessful.

Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, a transgender woman of color, was in a restrictive housing cell on Rikers Island in June when authorities found her dead. The medical examiner determined that Polanco died of seizures caused by epilepsy. She also suffered from other health conditions, including schizophrenia.

Polanco’s family has since sued the city and five city officials who were responsible for her care, alleging that they violated her constitutional rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Updated 12:23 pm, November 27, 2019
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