Dwanya Hickerson, a Navy meteorology trainee who was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in St. Martin, pleaded guilty to stabbing victim Dee Whigham, 25, 119 times in a local Best western hotel, saying he “lost it” after Whigham revealed she was transgender.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Leo Allen said video obtained from the motel shows the pair entering their room on July 23, 2016, and a shirtless Hickerson leaving about 25 minutes later. Prosecutors said Hickerson met Whigham at the base’s front gate, and traveled to the hotel to have sex.
Detectives quoted Hickerson as saying he “flew into a homicidal rage”, slashing Whigham’s face and neck multiple times. The woman died at the scene, according to authorities.
Whigham’s mother, Vickie Blackney Whigham, criticized prosecutors’ decision to allow the plea-bargain. “I think the plea is a slap in the face,” she fumed. “He gets a chance to see his family and I don’t have that chance with my child.”
Had Hickerson chosen to go to trial, he could have received the death penalty if convicted. At his allocution, the former sailor admitted to the murder. “She was digging in her purse, and she told me she was born a man,” Hickerson told the hushed courtroom, “I just lost my mind.”
Although Whigham’s family was present in court for the sentencing, at least one of the victim’s siblings expressed empathy for Whigham’s killer. “I didn’t approve of his lifestyle,” Denisha Whigham said. “So, I can understand what you say happened, happened. I can understand your anger.”
Hickerson was also hit with a 15-year sentence for robbing Whigham, in addition to the 40 years handed down for murder. Bith these sentences will run consecutively.