Authorities charge known gang member in the death of missing transgender woman

Published 12:10 am Saturday, August 15, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

Authorities have charged a known Latin Kings gang member in the death of a transgender woman after her remains were found Thursday buried in a shallow grave behind a home in Johnston County.

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office charged Angel Dejesus Arias, 23, a former resident of Hemlock Drive, with the murder of Elisha Maurice Walker, 20, a Salisbury native, who’d been missing since November.

Arias is also charged with felony larceny of a motor vehicle.

Family members said Walker normally kept in contact with them via phone calls, text messages or social media posts on Facebook, but they had not heard from her since Oct. 23, 2014. Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators began looking into Walker’s disappearance. Officials determined before she was reported missing, Walker was living on Celebration Drive. However, she frequently visited a home on Hemlock Drive, in the Westcliffe subdivision, located off Statesville Boulevard.
On Nov. 11, 2014, authorities released details in Walker’s disappearance, including a missing person flyer, to media in order to generate additional leads. Officials say they received calls from the public, however none of the leads produced much information. On Nov. 22, 2014, Walker’s 2000 silver Pontiac was found burned in an open field in Sampson County.
Rowan investigators traveled to Sampson County to process the destroyed car and developed several leads in the case. As a result of the investigation, detectives developed Arias as a suspect in Elisha Walker’s disappearance.
Officials said Arias was living on Hemlock Drive at the time of Walker’s disappearance, but had also begun to spend a lot of time in Smithfield, N.C., located in Sampson County. Detectives continued to investigate throughout December 2014 and into 2015, crossing three counties — Rowan, Johnston and Sampson. In February, Angel Arias moved out of the Hemlock Drive home and returned to Johnston County.

In July 2015, Rowan detectives, with the use of a cadaver detection K-9, searched the area around Arias’ residence on Hemlock Drive. Rowan County Sheriff’s Detectives obtained additional information that Angel Arias was being held in the Johnston County Jail on unrelated drug charges. Detectives continued the investigation in Johnston County and were able to identify a residence located on Homestead Lane, outside Smithfield as a possible location of the remains of Elisha Walker.

On Thursday, Rowan County Sheriff’s detectives and crime scene investigators responded to Homestead Lane with the assistance of Johnston County Sheriff’s Office investigators and obtained a search warrant for the property.
Wake County Sheriff’s Office provided a Human Remains Detection trained K-9 to assist in the search of the property. The search began and officials said, around 7:30 p.m., they discovered a small depression in the woods behind the residence. Human remains, identified by property and description as Elisha Walker, were discovered in the “crude” grave.

The remains were sent to the Raleigh Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy and positive identification. Officials finished collecting evidence at the Homestead Lane home just before midnight. Arias is being held without bond in the Johnston County Jail awaiting transport back to Rowan County.

Arias has a number of misdemeanor convictions for driving infractions and was convicted in 2010 with felony common law robbery.

Quiet Neighborhood

A Hemlock Drive neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said he is a captain with the community watch and said he didn’t know Arias. He lived next door to the 23-year-old, who also resided with a few others.

He estimated Arias lived at the home for about two-to-three months.

The neighbor said he’d see them come and go early and return late, but never really spoke. He recalled a couple of weeks ago that Rowan investigators arrived to search around the Hemlock Drive home with a search dog.

The neighbor said he didn’t recall seeing Elisha Walker at the home, but saw other women there.

“It’s a nice quiet neighborhood,” he said.

He said he never imagined the reason officials were searching the home had anything to do with a murder.

Mother’s Memories

Rhonda Alexander, the mother of Elisha Walker, best described Elisha as a “free spirit.”

As a child, Elisha didn’t want to play with balls or a bat, she said. He wanted to play with dolls.

Elisha would grab his older sister’s dolls and his father would take them from him. He played sports, Alexander said, but he didn’t like sports.

“He lit up the room, was always funny and doing something to make people laugh,” she said.

Although Alexander didn’t agree with Elisha’s alternative lifestyle, she said it was “his choice” and when he turned 18 years old Elisha began wearing women’s clothing.

Elisha moved around where she lived with an aunt, a godmother and cousins. She was preparing to move in with a friend, Julian, who is also transgender, Alexander said.
Alexander said she was adamant about Elisha not wearing women’s clothing at her home because of her grandchild who was there. She said she didn’t want to confuse the child so she asked Elisha not wear them there.
The family is close-knit and it was that closeness that alerted them that something was wrong when they never heard from Elisha, she said.
Alexander said by Nov. 1, Elisha was supposed to move in with her friend and roommate, Julian.
Alexander was going to provide Elisha with bathroom and kitchen items for her house.
When Elisha disappeared, she was on the phone with Julian as she made her way to Hemlock Drive to see Angel Arias, Alexander said.
“I know what happened. I knew this guy had done something to my son. We knew there was foul play from day one,” Alexander said.
She said it was hard to “sit on” information for nearly 10 months while detectives conducted their investigation.
“I had to be quiet about it until (detectives) did their job,” she said.
Alexander said she never met Arias, but knew of his name. She said her niece met him.
When asked about Arias’ relationship with her son, Alexander quickly said “they were lovers. They dated for about eight months,” even though Arias denied he knew Elisha.
She believes the two fought and “something got out of hand,” however authorities have not confirmed a motive or said how Walker died.
Alexander said she’s been in constant contact with Rowan investigators, especially investigator Jason Owens, whom she said gave her regular updates on the case.
She’s just been waiting for the day investigators had enough information and evidence to make an arrest.
“I thank the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department for what they did and the time they put into finding my son’s killer. We are mourning, but we’re overjoyed that he’ll be able to be laid to rest,” she said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.