The Fourth of July is normally a celebration, but for the loved ones of Jacob Williamson, it was a nightmare turned reality. 

Wiliamson, who was just 18 and transgender, had plans to go on his first date ever with 25-year-old Joshua Newton to Carowinds, located on the North and South Carolina state line. However, Williamson never came home. 

His body was found about 10 miles from the small town of Pageland, South Carolina, in Chesterfield County, where investigators believe Newton — along with an accomplice — attempted to hide evidence of Williamson’s murder. 

“(Williamson) got into the vehicle with Newton under the pretense that they were going to go on a date to Carowinds,” said Lt. James Maye of the Union County Sheriff’s Department.

According to reporting from The Charlotte Observer, Williamson had moved out of his parents’ house, started a new job at Waffle House and was finally able to live his life as a publicly out trans man in Laurens, S.C., the place Williamson called home. Williamson was staying with family friend Promise Edwards prior to his murder.  

“He called me and he just asked me, ‘Hey can I come and stay with you? Please, I don’t have anywhere to go,’” Edwards told the Charlotte Observer. “He was a loving, caring soul that only wanted to be loved and accepted by everyone.” 

Williamson’s mother Brittney Patterson-Shealy claimed she “did not believe Williamson was transitioning,” and she only addressed Williamson by his deadname — the birth name of a trans-identifying person that is no longer used as a part of their transition. 

“She should be here,” Patterson-Shealy said to The Post and Courier Columbia. “She should be at work. She should be living her best life, and she’s not. It’s just not right.”

Union County authorities arrested Newton and charged him with first degree murder. A second arrest was made shortly after; 22-year-old Victoria Smith, now known to be Newton’s girlfriend, was charged with obstruction and accessory after the fact. 

Around 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, according to the National Network for Youth. In addition, 38 transgender people across the country were killed in 2022, preceded by 50 other murders in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

A motive hasn’t been made public at the time of writing, but according to investigators, there’s no evidence to suggest a “hate crime.” 

“We believe this is an isolated incident where it began as an online dating relationship and the defendants in this case were basically just online predators,” Maye said. 

Edwards said Williamson had just ordered his first chest binder with his first paycheck from Waffle House, where he worked. He talked about how excited he was for it to come in, but he was taken before it arrived at Edwards’s doorstep. 

“He never met a stranger, and if he did, you wouldn’t be a stranger for long,” Edwards told the Observer. She also spoke of Williamson’s memory to The Post and Courier Columbia. 

“This world was so cruel to Jacob his entire life,” Edwards said. “I find peace in knowing that in the last month and a half, he found peace.”

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