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Burned torso identified as missing transgender teen

DETROIT – A burned torso has been identified as a transgender teen who had gone missing in Detroit.

The Wayne County medical examiner confirmed that the burned torso found on an Interstate 94 service road on Detroit's east side, was that of Michele Hilliard, 19, according to the Detroit News.

Friends expressed their grief on the Facebook page of the Ruth Ellis Center for at-risk youth in Detroit, where Hilliard was a client.

Detroit News reported:

Hilliard was last seen at 1:20 am Oct. 23, near the 900 block of Longfellow, wearing a silver dress. Hilliard's mother, Lyniece Nelson, said Hilliard went there to meet a man, and was calling for help when the line went dead. On Wednesday, investigator Albert Samuels matched the torso to Hilliard based on information Detroit police supplied about a tattoo of cherries on the teen's arm, said county spokesman Dennis Niemiec. He said Nelson identified her child's remains Thursday.

"Just continue to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life," Nelson said Thursday, to whoever harmed Hilliard. "Know that she is loved, and we will not stop until you pay dearly for what you've done."

Equality Michigan, a gay rights group, said it referred the case to the FBI to investigate as a hate crime because Michigan's ethnic intimidation law does not specifically address attacks based on sexual preference. Detroit Police spokeswoman Sgt. Eren Stephens said homicide detectives are investigating.

"There are a lot of classic signs of a hate crime," said Michigan Equality Director of Victim Services Nusrat Ventimiglia.

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