Kavonceya Cornelius accepts plea agreement to involuntary manslaughter in death of transgender Fayetteville teen

Published 11:42 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

SALISBURY — Kaniya Eboni Bernard is seemingly healthy, less than a year after doctors told her they didn’t know the long-term effects of being injected with nonmedical-grade silicone.

The woman who authorities said injected Bernard and others, Kavonceya Iman Cornelius, was sentenced Monday after accepting an Alford plea to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a transgender Fayetteville teenager, who received similar silicone injections earlier this year.

Cornelius, 42, who was born Kenneth Rudolph Cornelius, was arrested six months ago. On Monday, she was sentenced to 15 months to 27 months in prison.

Symone Marie Jones, 19, who was born Eugene Jones II, died in January after she received silicone injections by Cornelius, authorities have said.

Salisbury police were alerted to Jones’ death by Bernard, 29, a transgender woman, who received silicone injections from Cornelius over the course of five to six years. Bernard told the Post in March that she had received a total of 15 injections, the last one on Nov. 25.

The injections were sometimes done at Cornelius’ Union Heights Boulevard home in Salisbury. Bernard said she’d known Cornelius as Kysha Wellington, a name that many in the transgender and gay community knew.

Bernard contacted local authorities after she learned through an internet search that Symone Jones died from complications that developed after receiving silicone injections. Jones died after the silicone reached her heart.

Bernard said she knew the only person in the region who was giving the injections was Cornelius. Bernard did not know Jones but has since spoken with her mother, Sandra O’Hara-Harmon. The two have not spoken since the beginning of the year.

The Post reached out to the family of Symone Jones but did not receive an immediate response.

Bernard met Cornelius through a friend who had received silicone injections and seemed fine, she said. Bernard trusted the friend and began receiving the injections herself. After the final injection, Bernard said, her heart began racing and she had shortness of breath.

Doctors told Bernard the silicone traveled from the injection site, hit a vein and traveled to her lungs. Bernard was placed on steroids and had to use oxygen for a week.

She has not had to rely on an oxygen machine is no longer on steroids. Bernard hasn’t seen a doctor in about five months but plans to get a checkup soon.

“I know I still have silicone in me, but I feel normal,” she said.

When asked if there was any malicious intent by his client, Salisbury attorney Chris Sease said after the hearing that Cornelius did not intend to do harm.

“No, we felt that would be difficult for the state to prove. We felt like this was the most appropriate disposition of this case. I think this was a fair result,” he said.

Sease sent his condolences to the family of Symone Jones.

Bernard said she feels that Cornelius should have received a longer sentence, saying she believes Cornelius is a “sick person, and I think she needs help.”

Bernard, who lives out of state, wasn’t aware of the plea hearing and did not attend.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.