M. Terry / SFVS

Vigil for Michelle "Yazim Vash Payne in from of her apartment complex in Van Nuys.


San Fernando City Councilmember Joel Fajardo ended the council meeting on Monday, Feb. 2, in memory of Michelle “Yazmin” Vash Payne, 33, a transgender woman who was killed in a Van Nuys apartment.

The stabbed body of the woman — a former man named Michael Vash Payne — was found in a burning Van Nuys apartment building on Saturday, Jan.31.

Ezekiel Jamal Dear, 25, wanted for questioning in the stabbing and what was called an “arson/murder,” turned himself in and was booked on suspicion of murder. He remains in custody in the Van Nuys jail in lieu of $1 million bail. He turned himself in on Sunday, Feb. 1, while accompanied by a local pastor and was questioned by detectives before being booked at the Van Nuys Station.

Dear — whom the county District Attorney’s office described as Payne’s “live-in partner” — was charged Tuesday, Feb. 3, with one felony count each of murder, one felony count each of murder, with a knife-use allegation, and arson of an inhabited structure or property. He plead not guilty to all charges. Dear is next scheduled to appear in the Van Nuys Courthouse on Feb. 13.

LAPD homicide Detective Robert Bub told reporters at the scene that neighbors heard arguments and what sounded like fighting coming from the apartment.

Firefighters were dispatched to the apartment at 5:06 a.m. Saturday in the 14600 block of Saticoy Street. They entered the apartment and and quickly put out a fire in the rear bedroom, according to a LAPD statement.

Vash Payne, the statement said, was found lying on the floor of the kitchen. She had sustained multiple stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. Detectives were able to recover the murder weapon at the scene.

On Sunday, members of the Northeast Valley’s LGBTQ organization Somos Familia Valle held a rally. During the event, a truck full of men drove by and shouted, “go home, fags!” which, for the demonstrators, emphasized the disrespect held for the LGBTQ community.

“All parents and youth who marched last year for our first San Fernando Valley Pride march and conference are horrified by the ongoing violence targeting transgender women of color,” Ronnie Veliz, President of Somos Familia Valle, said in a statement released for the organization.

“We will not tolerate transphobia in our schools, homes, or streets. It’s time to unite and stop the killings of our trans sisters because all women matter. We are working on an educational justice campaign to address this issue in our community, as well as organize a massive march this year for our 2nd Pride in which hundreds of women, parents, youth, and seniors will proclaim unconditional love to all transgender neighbors and all LGBTQ sons and daughters in our Valley,” Veliz said.

Somos Familia Valle is described as a parent and youth grassroots organization and the local LGBTQ movement that started last year in the San Fernando Valley.

 “The tragic loss of Yazmin reminds us that there is still tremendous work to be done in the LGBTQ movement, which extends far beyond marriage. This is a fight for justice, equality and acceptance. I will continue to work hard with other LGBTQ leaders and allies to create a safer and more inclusive society for all,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo is the first Gay councilman to be elected to office in the tightly knit city.

“The National LGBTQ Task Force is outraged by the ongoing murders of transgender women taking place all across the county,” said task force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper. “Three transgender women of color have been killed in the last four months in Los Angeles, and there seems to be no end in sight to these tragic homicides.”

The task force offered thoughts and prayers to the victim’s friends and family and called on the LAPD “to swiftly investigate the murder of Michelle Vash Payne and bring justice to her loved ones and to the transgender community.”

Anyone with information about the case was urged to call investigators at (818) 374-0040. For more information about upcoming LGBATQ events in the San Fernando Valley, visit somosfamiliavallle.org.

Community Vigil to be Held for Murdered Women

In response to the murders of Michelle “Yazim” Vash Payne, Maria Ontiveros and other women, a community vigil will be held on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. Vigil organizers said they are concerned about the recent homicides targeting women in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and are making a plea for “safety.”  

“On Wednesday, Jan. 28, Maria Ontiveros was fatally stabbed and left to die on the sidewalk in Pacoima by a man who witnesses say chased, grabbed, and tried to kiss her. Only a few days later, on Saturday, Jan. 31 in Van Nuys, Yazmin Vash Payne was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, who then set her apartment on fire and fled,” said Alicia Castro, an organizer for the event.

“Recent homicides have targeted women in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. In less than one week, two women were tragically murdered within eight miles of one another.  This cannot be tolerated in our community or any other community. We will meet and march in unity to honor these women and so many other victims of violence. We will show that we are united for peace,” Castro said.  

Marchers will gather in an area between the sites of the two murders, starting at the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Woodman Avenue, and ending at the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Van Nuys boulevards.