Murder Victim Called ‘Misunderstood’
Deaf Transvestite Beaten to Death, Had History of Theft, Aggression

August 15th, 2013

Babylee Buttrum (with handkerchief) with family members at the August 10 memorial service for her son, Kelly Jamil Johnson (Lele), who was found beaten to death beside the road on Roatan’s East End July 18.

Babylee Buttrum (with handkerchief) with family members at the August 10 memorial service for her son, Kelly Jamil Johnson (Lele).

A memorial service was held at the Pentecostal Church in French Harbour August 10 for Kelly Jamil Johnson Buttrum, better known as Lele.

Johnson, who was deaf and could speak only a few words, was a familiar sight along the road between French Harbour and Coxen Hole parading about in hotpants and a tube top and similarly flamboyant transgender apparel. His body was found beaten to death and wrapped in a sheet on the roadside near Juticalpa on Roatan’s East End July 18. He was 22.

Winfield Orrin Dixon Elwin and Jacqueline Elwin Valladares, both of French Harbour, were arrested August 1 and charged with Johnson’s murder. But they were released August 7 after Judge José Carranza, following a preliminary hearing, ordered a provisional stay of proceedings because he did not think the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence to tie them to the murder. The prosecution appealed the ruling August 12.

According to Teresa de Jesus Rivera, a National Human Rights Commission representative on Roatan, the prosecution presented testimony from witnesses who said they had seen the two defendants beating Johnson the day he disappeared. But the defense produced witnesses who said they had seen Johnson alive after that beating.

Johnson’s mother, Babylee Buttrum, said Johnson left home about 8 a.m. July 16 dressed to go to the beach. He did not return home. His body was found around 11 p.m. July 18, she said, and he was buried in Coxen Hole just over 14 hours later, without an autopsy.

Police said those suspected of having beaten Johnson alleged he had stolen some clothing from a store belonging to their family. Others alleged Johnson had assaulted some women in the community on different occasions.

Pastor Paul Dyer, who conducted the August 10 memorial service and said he knew Johnson, confirmed that Johnson had been caught stealing in the past, including once from Dyer’s own yard. Dyer also confirmed that Johnson could sometimes behave aggressively, which he attributed to a history of suffering abuse. Buttrum said Johnson had been beaten by groups of young men multiple times.

In the memorial service, Dyer, who said he ministered to the deaf community in the US before coming to Roatan, said Johnson was “misunderstood.” Johnson “struggled to express himself,” Dyer said, and he suffered from the lack of opportunities or services in Honduras for people with disabililties (he said Johnson, in addition to being deaf, had mental problems). But Dyer was not aware that Johnson had ever harmed anyone.

After the service, Buttrum said forensic specialists from the mainland would exhume her son’s body and do an autopsy, which prosecutor Vera Galvez confirmed.


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