Sasha Rodriguez-Mason, 45, a transgender woman who was misidentified as a cisgender male by local authorities and media, was murdered in her home earlier this year on May 13 in the town of Zebulon, North Carolina.

With a population of approximately 6,000, the town is located in Wake County and is considered to be a part of the Research Triangle area.

Within a week, two men were arrested in connection to the robbery and murder.

Ali Tariq Khabir Wiggins of Wendell, North Carolina, has been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a dangerous weapon. 

A few days later, Julius Antwan Smith of Angier, North Carolina, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. He has since been charged with murder.

Ali Wiggins (left) has been charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a dangerous weapon. In addition to charges of murder, Julius Antwan Smith (right) also faces the same charges as Wiggins. | Photo: Zebulon Police Department

When contacted by Qnotes, Zebulon police authorities were forthcoming about the case but reserved comment on additional murder charges for Wiggins.

Since the case continues to be under investigation, they did not rule out the possibility of further charges.

Rodriguez-Mason was part of a large, loving family and had many relatives and friends in the town of Zebulon and nearby. She lived in an apartment behind her mother’s home in Zebulon.

After being awakened in the early morning hours of May 13 by the sound of a gunshot, Rodriguez-Mason’s mother, Inez Davis, found her lying in her apartment, with at least one gunshot wound. Zebulon police officers arrived on the scene quickly and performed CPR but Rodriguez-Mason was pronounced dead by the time emergency medical service officials arrived. Items were taken from the apartment during the robbery and research confirms both Wiggins and Smith were acquaintances of Rodriguez-Mason.

Local authorities have said they believe the robbery and murder was a targeted attack.

“It is heartbreaking to know that a mother has lost her child. Sasha was a friend to many people in our town,” Zebulon Police Chief Jacqui Boykin said in a statement. “Friends and family should not have to face such a senseless loss. I hope the police department can bring some peace and sense of justice to … loved ones.”

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, issued the following statement: “I am heartbroken to learn of Sasha’s death. She should still be with us today. We will continue to remember her life and say her name alongside her friends and family. 

“Sasha’s death is yet another tragic incident in an epidemic of fatal violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color.

Those who wish to do us harm are emboldened by the hostile anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and anti-trans stigma in our current politics and culture. It must end.”

According to HRC, Rodriguez-Mason is the 16th confirmed killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming individual this year.

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...