TDoR 2002 / 2002 / April / 10 / Arlene Díaz

Arlene Díaz

Age 28

10 Apr 2002
Sunland Park, New Mexico (USA)

TDoR list ref: Apr 2002/Hector Arturo Diaz

Arlene Díaz

Arlene was shot in the back by Justin Grant Hall. She was transitioning, and the night before she had attended a local transgender support group.

She disappeared at 10:30pm that night, and a witness saw her and Hall arguing early the following morning.

Arlene ([deadname]) Diaz was planning her upcoming transition, and attended a local transgender support group the night of her murder. She was fatally shot in the back, allegedly by Justen Grant Hall. The local police have classified this murder as a hate crime.

A 20-year-old West El Paso man was arrested Monday evening in connection with the killing of [deadname] Diaz, whose body was found April 10 off Anapra Road near Sunland Park, police said.

Diaz had been shot to death, police said.

Justen Grant Hall of the 8500 block of Lakehurst was charged with murder and booked into the county jail under a $75,000 bond.

Police said they had a description of Hall but not his name. A man matching his description was sighted Monday at the Big Lots Store at Mesa and Resler streets.

Hall was gone when police arrived, but officers were able to obtain his name. Officers fund him at a house in the 200 block of Montego Bay. After questioning Hall, detectives had him charged with murder.

Police said Tuesday they couldn't release information about the motive of the homicide. Police had asked for the help of the gay community to solve the case because Diaz was a [trans woman].

On 6th November 2019 the state of Texas executed Hall by lethal injection.

WASHINGTON - The state of Texas executed Justen Hall on Wednesday [6 Nov 2019], [Justen Hall,] a white supremacist who in 2002 murdered a woman in a crime related to drug trafficking.

Hall, 38, was pronounced dead at 18.32 local time (CT) after receiving a lethal injection at Huntsville Prison (near Houston), as reported by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ).

Hall committed the murder of Melanie Billhartz, for which he was executed, being released on bail for another homicide, that of Arturo Díaz , a transgender woman who identified herself as Arlene.

The authorities considered Díaz's murder a hate crime , although he was not tried for that murder, but only Billhartz.

At the time of her murder the El Paso Times published an article on Arlene. The extract below is published unedited [CN for deadnaming and misgendering].

Victim of hate crime led 2 lives, friends say.

El Paso Times - May 1, 2002

Before he was shot in the back and left to die near a convenience store, Hector Arturo Diaz led two lives.

At home in Sunland Park, he was the baby boy of a hard-working mother, the sibling of nine brothers and sisters. At night, the 28-year-old man dressed in women's clothing and became "Arlene," a fixture of the gay scene in Downtown El Paso.

April 10, when a passer-by found his body on Anapra Road, shock and sorrow united his two worlds. "I am shattered," his mother, Rosa Diaz, said last week, in tears.

"You have children. You raise them. You see them grow and someone kills them. He didn't deserve this. There is no reason for this."

Police believe the killing was motivated by prejudice over Diaz's sexual orientation. Police declined to comment further, but a police report indicates they obtained an incriminating statement from the alleged killer, Justen Grant Hall, 20, of the 8500 block of Lakehurst.

Hall was charged with murder April 22, and police subsequently announced that the case was being classified as a hate crime. The law describes a "hate crime" as an offense committed "because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability" of the victim.

Diaz had left Gadsden High School in Anthony, N.M., in the 11th grade and obtained his GED from UTEP. He studied at a technical school and got a job filing records at Sierra Medical Center, his family said.

He lived with his mother, a hotel housekeeper, and three sisters at their mother's house on Yucca Street in Sunland Park. There, he shared a bedroom with his grandfather until the elderly man died two years ago. Stuffed animals and a fleet of small helium balloons still line his shelves. His Bible lies open, its pages held down by a bookmark that reads, "Be Happy, Share A Smile!"

He liked going to the movies and eating Chinese food. "He was very funny," his sister Rosemary Porras said.

Funny, outspoken and friendly also is how Diaz's friends described him. But they knew him as "Arlene," almost unrecognizable in female clothing, with a made-up face, save for the dimples in his cheeks and chin.

Diaz was what the gay community calls "transgender," someone who feels trapped in a body of the wrong sex.

To respect Diaz's wishes, friends Sascha Adams and Dan Nicotera refer to Diaz as "she."

"She would go to work in male clothing and dressed as a boy at home. She respected her family's wish not to see her like that," said Adams, a soft-spoken transgender person, sitting in a corner of the Lambda Community Center on Ochoa Street.

Before cruising the clubs, Diaz would get ready at the Planned Parenthood's Desert Rainbow Center on Montana Avenue. At the end of the night, Diaz would change again on the way home.

"She'd wake up as a boy," Adams said. "She used to say as soon as she got her own apartment, she'd be a girl 24-7."

Diaz's family knew. Their baby boy had come out many years ago. But the mere mention of the name "Arlene" causes Rosa Diaz to tense up.

"It's Hector. That's the name he was born under," she said.

Diaz was buried in a man's suit.

However complicated life was getting, Diaz was happy.

"She loved her mother and sisters," Adams said. "There was one sister in particular with whom they talked about everything. She would always mention them. That's all she ever talked about -- how happy she was at home."

Diaz's alleged killer had been hanging around the gay bar scene for some time, but several members of the gay community said Hall is not claimed as one of their own. With his bony face, he looked a good 10 years older than he was. He drove a dark GMC Yukon pickup, police reports read. "Supposedly, he was a real nice guy," Nicotera said.

Few people knew Hall had been incarcerated from April 2000 to November 2001 on two charges of burglary and one of auto theft.

On the last night of his life, Diaz had gone to the Desert Rainbow Center for a transgender support group meeting. He put on his favorite outfit, a fuzzy black woman's sweater, black pants and fashionable boots. He fixed his long, black hair and applied makeup. The group watched a movie, and Diaz, Adams, Nicotera and others went to Sergio's Bar on Missouri Avenue. Diaz disappeared about 10:30 p.m.

Police did not disclose the relationship between Diaz and Hall, but friends said they were not dating. A witness saw the two early the next morning, a police report says. They appeared to be arguing. It was shortly before police reports allege Hall shot Diaz in the back.

On April 20, Hall was arrested at the Gas Light Square trailer park at 500 Talbot in Canutillo for illegally carrying a loaded Bryco Arms 9 mm handgun. Hall was out on bond when he was arrested two days later and charged with Diaz's murder. Hall remained jailed Tuesday in lieu of $75,000 bond, authorities said.

Report added: 22 Dec 2018. Last updated: 13 Jan 2021

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