Monday, February 26, 2007

Four years later, 'Nikki' murder still a mystery

Four years later, 'Nikki' murder still a mystery

By Lisa Roose-Church


Those who knew a Detroit transgender person found murdered in an abandoned Green Oak Township farmhouse in February 2003 still believe someone has information that could help find the killer.
Meanwhile, Green Oak Township Police Chief Robert Brookins said last week that his office continues to investigate the shooting death of Anthony Lionell "Nikki" Nicholas, who was found murdered Feb. 21, 2003.
"We believe the people responsible are local," the chief said, as the fourth anniversary of the crime passed. "We look at the case with frequency. We're not giving up on it."
Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of Triangle Foundation in Detroit, said Thursday that he is convinced someone has information that could lead to solving Nicholas' murder.
"I remain convinced to this day that many people who may have, and had, information about this case did not feel safe coming forth," Montgomery said. "It's a double tragedy.
"First for Nikki's family and also it's a tragedy this happened in a community that doesn't feel safe," he said, referring to transgender people.
Born a man, Nicholas had lived as a woman for two years prior to the killing. She went by the name Nikki and made a living as a female impersonator in several Detroit-area bars. "Transgender" is an umbrella term used to describe individuals whose gender expression or gender identity differs from conventional expectations based on the physical sex they were born into.
Family members told authorities that Nicholas had not lived at home since early 2001. Nicholas was last seen Feb. 15, 2003, going to a party somewhere between Detroit and Ann Arbor. She was found six days later in the farmhouse.
A representative of Canton Township-based Webber Devel-opment Co. discovered 19-year-old Nicholas' body on Feb. 21, 2003, in an abandoned farmhouse on property adjacent to the Hershey Creamery between M-36 and Spicer Road in Green Oak Township while conducting a property check. The body was discovered on the second floor of the farmhouse.
Police used fingerprints to identify the victim. They would not say when they believed Nicholas died or how long her body had been in the abandoned farmhouse.
Nicholas died from a gunshot wound, according to an autopsy conducted at Saint Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor.
Montgomery said he still believes Nicholas was targeted because of her lifestyle and the way she represented herself.
"We absolutely have no doubt that is the case," Montgomery said. "It's a very difficult case to contemplate. It brings all those memories back."
In 2005, Brookins said police interviewed "individuals" in July 2004 in the murder, but he declined to provide specific details. At that time, the chief also noted that there are "several" people police are still considering and "looking at," including an unidentified person initially named as a "person of interest" in the case.
Brookins has also declined to provide specific information on that individual.
As the four-year mark passed, Montgomery said he believes police are doing what they can to solve Nicholas' murder.
"Anniversaries of this kind are always devastating, especially those that remain unsolved," he said.
Nicholas' brother, James, told the Daily Press & Argus in February 2003 that he believed Nicholas' murder was the result of a hate crime. Attempts to reach the family this week were unsuccessful.
In April of that year, police returned to the abandoned house when someone started a fire there. Brookins said police believe "curiosity seekers" started the fire.
Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Lisa Roose-Church at (517) 552-2846 or at

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