Valerie Griffin will always remember her late daughterDejanay Stanton, who went by the nickname Dadaas a free spirit who loved to both travel and shop, and was always respectful and affectionate toward her mother.
"She never left a room I was in without saying to me, 'I love you,'" Griffin recalled.
Stanton, who was also known socially under the name De'janay Lanorra, died by homicide sometime during the morning of Aug. 30. Her body was found with a bullet to the head at an alley at 40th Street and King Drive. The crime is still under investigation. Stanton was the 17th transgender female U.S. resident murdered in 2018.
Griffin spoke with Windy City Times the day before Stanton's funeral. Griffin's South Side home, where her daughter also lived, was crowded with close and extended family members who were helping her ready for the next day. She had just returned from the funeral home where she'd been helping to preparing Stanton's makeup.
"When I first saw her, it was a total shock," she said. "The make-up person's and my knees both buckled at the same time. We were about to pass out. I had seen her at the examiner's office on the 31st of August. She didn't look as bad as she looked when I just saw her."
Griffin learned of her daughter's death through the worst means possible: social media. As news spread on Instagram that a murder had taken place nearby, someone told a family member, and they all recognized Stanton's car in a photo.
"I looked at the car, because I memorized Dada's license plate," she recalled. "I said, 'That's her license plate.' It went on from there."
The Chicago Police Department initially misgendered Stanton, Griffin said, leading to some confusion; originally a male victim was identified at the scene. But Griffin said they resolved it quickly after she spoke with them. She added the CPD detective on the case had been cooperative, forthcoming and helpful. At the same time, she's resolved to make sure that the truth behind the murder is discovered and the perpetrator is brought to justice.
"They're not going to drop the ball on this," she said.
Griffin said that her daughter had occasional minor spats in her social circle, but steered clear of major problems and had had no trouble with the law.
"I have no bad memories of Dada … and I don't know of anyone who can say bad things about her," she added. "How could anyone have that much anger, to take her life, so that nobody is ever going to see her anymore? What type of person does that?"
Stanton had two sisters and two brothers; she had a newborn niece whom she never got the opportunity to meet. Griffin also spoke at length about her daughter's wanderlust.
"Dada loved to go to different cities," Griffin said. "She went to Las Vegas, Virginia, Nashville, Atlanta and Los Angeles. She got out to a lot of places. She was getting to the point where she was just starting to get out and enjoy life … and she loved her family, and she loved to be flawless."
The day after Stanton's death, friends and family gathered for a vigil at the site of her death. Inclement weather prevented them from successfully releasing balloons to mark her passing, however. Griffin said she took that as a sign that Stanton was not yet ready to move into her next spiritual realm.
"I'm a firm believer in the spirits," she explained. "Dada was not happy and had not fully crossed over yet. She's wandering around here, wondering why she can't touch us. She doesn't understandbecause I don't understand."